Bacon, Sex, and Why Your Condemnation Doesn’t Stick

Pig silhouetteIt has taken me a long time to become confident enough to write publicly about sex and its relationship to deconversion. I’ve been writing now as an atheist for nearly three years, publishing hundreds of posts by now, yet hardly ever writing about this particular topic. Why so bashful, you ask?  Well, I’ll tell you.

It’s because Christians in general, and American evangelicals in particular, are ruthlessly judgmental when it comes to sexuality. This topic fills them with righteous indignation more than any of the next four topics combined. No other subject so effectively entitles a believer to disparage and dismiss the concerns of another human being as this one does. That used to stop me from talking about it, but not anymore.

Enough time has passed for me to see this tactic for what it is: It is a method of control and a defense mechanism for a belief system too fragile to stand on its own without being surrounded by diversionary maneuvers and pyrotechnics. If these beliefs were as self-evident as Christians claim they are, they wouldn’t have to resort to character assassination and ad hominems to make their case. But as it is, they cannot resist reaching into this bag of tricks, which says an awful lot about how strong their case really is.

Changing the Subject

I made a comment this weekend on social media which requires a lot of unpacking. I suppose it’s a bold claim to make, but it has taken me years to reach this understanding, and I’m prepared to back it up.

It will take some time to explain what I mean by that comment, and I’m not going to do it justice today. But first I would like to address a response a Christian friend of mine gave to seeing this comment in her Facebook feed.

She noted that a statement like this quite easily lends itself to the charges of those who claim that people like me leave the Christian religion for reasons which are personal rather than intellectual. In other words, when we say that it is a lack of evidence that renders us unable to believe the claims of the faith in which we were raised, they dismiss this interpretation with the wave of a hand, accusing instead that we only quit believing (if we even really did that!) because we want an excuse for moral license.

In short, we simply want more sex (or sex of the wrong kind), and the Christian faith was cramping our style. That must really be why we left.

Are you sharp enough to notice that was a complete change of subject? Shouldn’t our motivation for examining their claims be entirely beside the point?  Imagine this line of reasoning distilled down into a single conversation:

Them: You said you were a Christian for 20 years but now you’re not. If your faith were real, how could you ever stop believing?

Me: Well, it finally dawned on me that the evidence for the claims of this religion doesn’t hold up to closer scrutiny. I just don’t see the evidence for…

Them: You just want to have more sex. How much time do you spend looking at porn each week, hmm? You want to cast off all restraint.

Me: But what does that have to do with whether or not people come back to life after they die, or whether or not invisible persons exist?

Them: You’re only saying that because you want to get laid.

Me: …

Is it not obvious how beside the point this conversation is? It is a complete change of subject. I realize these two things are connected in the Christian mind (remember, I used to be one as well), but the connection is not a rational one. It’s what you call a non sequitur. The one thing doesn’t automatically follow from the other, and citing personal motivation like this does nothing in reality to answer the honest questions put forth by a skeptic of your belief system. Changing the subject like this only serves to dismiss the concerns of the other person, and it rather conveniently sidesteps the issues they’ve just brought to light.

If a young man raised within an Islamic culture began to question the historical and intellectual underpinnings of his own religion, would you first ask if his motives were pure?  Could his quest to find the truth not be equally motivated by a desire to cast off all restraint? And more to the point, would you dismiss his questions as invalid the moment it became obvious that he was thinking with his Johnson?

Let’s run with this assumption for a moment.  Let’s assume for the moment that the only reason I started questioning my faith was because I wanted more sex (a very close friend of mine hit me with that accusation soon after I told him I had lost my faith), or maybe I want a different kind of sex than the one this religion says is okay. Alright, fine. What if I did? Does that actually invalidate my questions? Does my need for evidence before I believe a thing suddenly go away because it’s been decided that my motives for asking were, according to your system, less than noble?

Does this motivation really invalidate the arguments? Or does it only give you an excuse to pretend they aren’t really standing there, demanding answers you cannot find?

This Is Your Hang-Up, Not Ours

At long last, I am quite ready to push back at this notion that Christianity has a corner on the market where moral guidelines are concerned. It took getting away from that belief system to finally be able to look at it from the outside and evaluate its capacity for moral guidance and character development. It seems to me upon further reflection that the Christian faith does not possess within itself anything magical which makes bad people good or good people better. It only takes what is already there and reinforces it, which is really the way almost all ideologies work, including my own.

But the Christian faith is disproportionately obsessed with sex, multiplying rules and expectations around this one subject far beyond any inherent function related to real moral development (more on that in a second). Some religions get hung up on food. Christianity gets hung up on sex. But that doesn’t mean the rest of us have to be, too.

[Read: “The Church Doesn’t Get to Make the Rules About Sex Anymore“]

It would make no more sense for us to force ourselves to cater to the idiosyncrasies of a Christian’s religious tradition than it would for a Christian to pattern his life around the demands of Islam.  Would you let the Muslim prohibition over bacon prevent you from enjoying that food yourself?  Do you forgo coffee or tea merely because Mormons consider them somehow off-limits? I’m guessing the answer is no, because that’s their hang-up, not yours. Who would go through life subjecting himself to the specious fixations of other people’s systems of belief?

And yet that’s what is happening when people like me withhold discussions about sexuality for fear that Christians will use what we say to judge us as morally inferior. But does sexuality inherently relate to morality? I would argue it doesn’t, or at least not any more than any other natural activity. It can be misused, yes, but one must make a legitimate case for what constitutes misuse in the first place. One must show actual harm before an activity can really be seen by the rest of us as unhealthy.

Jesus and Your Orifices

Jesus once made a remarkably insightful statement, which I’ll first put into its context:  A group of religious people were accusing him of allowing moral laxity among his disciples because he wasn’t ensuring they performed the customary ceremonial cleansing rituals before they ate their dinner. It’s a lot like when Christians won’t eat their food until it’s been “blessed.” Somehow the food isn’t clean until they say some words over it to make it okay to eat.

He responded by noting that food which enters the mouth doesn’t go into your heart, your soul, your innermost being (however you want to put it). It’s just food. It will break down and essentially come right back out the other end (ew, thanks for that picture, Jesus).  He made an excellent point. Your moral character isn’t determined by what you put into your mouth.

Question: Why isn’t this logic applied to the other orifices as well?

If you engage a Muslim apologist over the matter of eating pork, he will begin by citing studies which show that people who eat pork suffer from more diseases, bodily weaknesses, and a shorter lifespan than people who do not. Trust me, you can find a handful of studies that posit almost anything you want. I’ve had this very thing done to me, so I know it happens.

He also may argue that even if you don’t fully understand what’s evil or unclean about pork, you should still assign moral value to a person’s ability to show restraint—his ability to control his own desires in obeisance to the demands of his religious tradition. A similar argument could be made about how we react to any of our natural appetites, but that wouldn’t really address whether or not there is truly something inherently moral about one kind of meat versus another. I would argue the same principle applies to our sex organs.

Does what you do with your genitalia inherently impact any other moral criterion? Does it automatically determine if you are compassionate? Does it impact your level of industriousness, or diligence, or conscientiousness, or kindness? Does one kind of sex over another determine if you are reliable, responsible, patient, or sincere?

It seems to me there is nothing inherently moral or immoral about putting genitals together in any conceivable combination. In and of itself, sex is morally neutral, just as eating food is. Both can be misused, yes, and both could turn violent (I suppose if you put poison in the food). But one kind of sex isn’t morally inferior in-and-of-itself any more than one kind of food or drink is automatically unclean in-and-of-itself.  That would be shallow thinking indeed, and ironically I would argue that it runs contrary to the moral reasoning of what Jesus said about food.

And yes, I realize the early church did not take that reasoning to its logical conclusion where sex is concerned, but tell me again why that automatically necessitates that the rest of us have to be as inconsistent as they are?

If you can show me how one kind of sex harms the people involved—does damage to them or exploits them in some way—removing from them the personal agency which should always characterize a healthy sexual encounter, then we will have something to discuss. But if you simply dismiss as unclean an entire class of sexual activity, or even more an entire sexual orientation, you won’t be getting much of an audience from people like me. It’s not really a substantive discussion at that point. It’s merely a regurgitation of rules worked out by people defending an identity. I’m going to need something better than that. And I’m surely not going to take you seriously when you use these tactics to dismiss a legitimate request for evidence.

Who’s to say that you’re not rejecting Islam for reasons that are invalid? Maybe you just love bacon too much, and you can’t let it go…

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Robert Baden

    Forgive us our trespasses………
    Alter this to fit your particular sect…………

  • If you read Roman and Greek contemporaries of the early Christians, a whole bunch of their polemical attacks centered around their assumption that the Christians were sexually licentious. (Paul had to harp on it in a couple of his epistles, so they definitely were doing something that was disapproved of by the prevailing standards of the time.) So, either it was a well-targeted attack because it was accurate (and Christians responded to the pressure by cracking down on the free love), or it was a calumny easily believed because the logic that Christians employed in other areas, like you point out in dismissing most of Kashrut, ends naturally in a similar conclusion.

    • If you read Roman and Greek contemporaries of the early Christians, a whole bunch of their polemical attacks centered around their assumption that the Christians were sexually licentious.

      Can you name some examples, or link to somewhere that does?

      • A polemic credited to Marcus Cornelius Fronto by the apologist Marcus Minucius Felix is perhaps the most representative example. In it, the pagan Fronto asserts that Christians come from disenfranchised and disreputable groups and have secret rites, which include orgies and incest.

  • Lee Miller

    Nothing wrong with getting laid . . .

  • Maura Hart

    excellent post. i always think most of the crap preached by so called “christians” is really about punishing women for enjoying sex. more than anything else it is a power and control issue

    • kyle s

      How many of us know that one of the running theme’s in Orwell’s **1984** was that a key component of controlling people lies in restrictions on their sexual activity?

      • smrnda

        The reason is that sexual feelings are something you can’t control. If you create a climate of guilt and shame surrounding sex, there is nothing they can do to stop the (supposedly) ‘shameful’ feelings. The Christian religion pretends to offer forgiveness for these things, but the feelings never go away so people have to keep going back for a new dose of forgiveness.

        • Dangitbobby

          That’s exactly it.

          You desire sex because it’s natural. Church says it’s a sin. You feel guilt and who offers the cure??? The Church! Repent, be saved, come join us at church and you’ll be free from the guilt of sin!

          I’m a marketing person, always have been, and in marketing circles this trick is used all the time. With some products or services, you almost have to “make the problem” then offer the “cure”.

          Of course, it’s also about conformity – everyone here doesn’t have sex outside of marriage! We also don’t listen to this kind of music, watch these kinds of movies, or drink/eat this kind of food. It’s tribalism to the core.

          • Gregor Eisenhorn

            Yes, don’t forget, “pass the collections basket” when you come back for your forgiveness.

          • Tssha

            Halitosis! Yes, that’s why you need mouthwash! A product previously used to sterilize floors.

            Promiscuity! It can be cured by church! A product previously used to explain the nature of the universe (albeit badly).

        • While most teenagers and adults have sexual desires, I wonder how much more controlled they’d be if sex wasn’t made the elephant in the room. For me, the more I was told “Don’t think about sex,” I was thinking so hard not to think about it that I…thought about it. Now I regret not being brave enough to ask someone in my bible study why masturbation was seen as something just as awful as premarital sex, rather than a better alternative.

          • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

            Because it feels good and the church can’t control the desire for it. “Zen Without Zen Masters” gives the rule as “Anything a religion forbids is something pleasant it can’t provide” or words to that effect.

    • Punishing people. It may well be just a side effect of wanting to control women, but in the end it’s all of us who are supposed to follow the rules.

    • Kevin K

      Not just women…but most especially women.

  • Ann Kah

    The problematic thing about sex is that masturbation aside, it takes another person to participate. If one has a healthy and religion-free attitude, you still should consider whether the other person has hang-ups about sex (whether or not they’re religion-based). Your individual approach to sex isn’t sufficient when another person is involved.

    That aside, I’ll point out that Islam is also built around sexual prohibitions. I don’t think that’s quite as true of Judaism, but the more conservative branches have a remarkably strong concern with genetic purity.

    Conservative christianity/ politics (yes, they’re connected) in the US stresses sex a lot because that’s a lot easier for the congregation to comprehend than the national debt or the more esoteric points of dogma.

    • Maura Hart

      please orthodox judaism is just as intolerant of women. no sex during your period, ritual bathing after your period. cover your hair. cover most of your skin. husbands approval required to divorce. just as bad. most religions are in one way or another. catholics are just as bad, except in any case regarding priest kiddie rapers. that’s ok apparently

      • Erinys Trace

        Apparently, since it’s not written out in the bible (in bold/red) “don’t fuck children”, then that is license to do as they please? Because they can’t figure it out on their own…reminds me of the quote from the (former?) St. Louis Archbishop in response to a question on why he didn’t report some specific priest/abuse: “I didn’t know I should”.(something like that the story is from a few years ago, I may not be remembering his exact words)

        • Otto

          He was the bishop in the town/diocese I am in for quite a while. Bishop Carlson.

        • ephemerol

          Yeah, I don’t get it. Sex is a “sin.” Homosexuality is a “sin.” Rape is a crime. Pedophilia is a crime. But if you can manage to pull off all four at once, then god approves? Or at least, that’s what the behavior toward pedophile priests by the catholic hierarchy suggests…

    • Otto

      “Your individual approach to sex isn’t sufficient when another person is involved.”

      I agree. It is a matter of consent. Everyone consents then no problem.

    • Glandu

      Islam is also built around sexual prohibitions.

      You stole my answer. (Not that it matters, of course). Long ago, there was plenty of food rules within christianity. Most of them vanished, but the sex rules did remain. In Islam, both are still strong.

      My uneducated guess is that sex can be a powerful tool, for doing the good as doing the bad, and that the old societies had tendencies to put very strong rules to everyone to cover some porblems that appeared not that often. Kind of caution rule. And also kind of tool for the supreme ruler. When people enjoy freedom and responsability for their acts, the supreme ruler has less power. When everytinh shall follow the rule, the supreme ruler has a supreme power.

  • Benny S.

    It seems that so much about sex outside of Christian parameters involves the anger (and wrath) of God. Sodom and Gomorrah. OMG! Look what happened there! The Flood. OMG! While Moses was away getting the tablets at the top Mount Sinai. OMG! On and on. Fear and fear and fear. It continued outside the bible (so some have been taught and continue to perpetuate without evidence) with the fall of the Greek and Roman Empires. Fast forward: The Twin Towers! Hurricane Katrina! It’s the gays fault! On and on. Fear and fear and fear. The good news is that people are catching on to this ridiculous God’s-gonna-getcha fear-mongering. With the exception of those who favor Cruz, Carson, Santorum, Huckabee, etc.

  • Hilary

    Ford, a regular commenter on Patheos, once put it this way: our sex does not validate our relationships; our relationships validate our sex. He was talking about the validity of same sex relationships, but I think the point can be broadly made that the value of the relationship in which the sex takes place is what gives it meaning.

  • Donna

    Christians have been obsessed with sex from the beginning. I believe that it proved to be the most effective tool they could have contrived to control people by guilt. Sex is a drive nearly as strong as self preservation, but unlike breathing and eating, you CAN live without it. Ergo, tell the animal that’s sex is evil, this thing that nature has designed him/her to seek relentlessly, and you have the animal in a vise of guilt that will never abate, and they wiil do anything to expiate in the eyes of their god.If that doesn’t make for insanity I don’t know what does.

    • Erinys Trace

      Exactly! They need something to power the treadmill of guilt, what better than the natural sex drive? Create the guilt by making something completely natural a “sin”, then offer a way to get rid of that “sin”. Rinse, repeat
      It’s so obvious once you really take a look from the outside…

    • Aegis

      I can’t remember whether he was quoting someone else, but I’m taken back to that Intelligence Squared debate with Chris Hitchens and Stephen Fry versus mo Mowlam and some bishop guy where Fry said that sex is like food. It’s good for you, it’s great if you put effort in, it’s got its downsides but it’s a necessary part of life. And there are only two kinds of people obsessed with food: the anorexic and the morbidly obese. Same with sex.

    • Glandu

      That’s why the catholic church still forbids any kind of sex to its hierarchy. They want sex(like everyone), they feel guilty(because they live in a framework that makes them feel guilty for thinking just about sex), and therefore are not enough self-confident to revolt against the system. Very clever.

  • Sandra Craft

    “Who’s to say that you’re not rejecting Islam for reasons that are invalid? Maybe you just love bacon too much, and you can’t let it go… ”
    Now I have the image of Jerry Falwell stuck in my head, clutching a rasher of bacon and crying “I can’t quit you.”

    • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

      Make it Mike Huckabee and a bacon bass guitar? ;-)

      • Sandra Craft

        In a heartbeat!

  • Martin Zeichner

    Thank you for this post. It is remarkably to the point.

    I would suggest that what’s sauce for the goose… When the religious open the door to questioning motivations it should be perfectly legitimate to question their motivations in turn. ISTM that it would reveal the controlling and narcissistic nature of many aspects of religion, not just their attitudes toward sex.

  • Jack Baynes

    I liked to say that Easter was the celebration of our right to eat ham (since we always had ham for Easter dinner). Perhaps I subconsciously chose to avoid the true faith of Judaism because of my obscene love for pork…
    Or more likely I was not a Jew because my parents were Christian.

  • Kevin K

    Not only is it a non-sequitur, it’s a non-rational non-sequitur.

    If you claim that the only reason someone “turns atheist” is to sin, then you believe the atheist’s thinking process goes like this:

    1. I believe there is a god who judges me and assigns me to either eternal bliss or eternal torment after death.
    2. Because I wish to engage in a behavior that displeases this god, I am going to claim to not believe in this god anymore, even though I know it exists. Because if it did not exist, I would not care whether or not it allegedly approves of one human behavior over another.
    3. If I engage in a non-approved behavior, then I will be tortured for all eternity.
    4. Even if I don’t engage in a non-approved behavior, I will be tortured for all eternity for the thought crime of not believing in this particular god.
    5. Therefore, I am choosing to not believe in this god, even though I know it exists and will torture me for all eternity.

    Lunacy. Sheer lunacy.

    • Jack Baynes

      Especially since the core belief of Christianity is God will forgive all your sins if you believe in Jesus, so there’s nothing stopping you from being Christian and going out to get all the hot sex you want, then repenting and still making it to heaven.

      • Kevin K

        That’s true. But I think you have to feel bad about your non-approved behaviors in order for it to “stick”.

  • Bri

    The “you only left Christianity to sin,” argument is is designed to change the subject and ignore the ex-religious person’s real reasons. It is an argument designed to talk over the ex-religious. To use Captain Cassidy’s term, many Christians think of themselves as the World’s Designated Adults. So a Christian saying “well you just wanted to have sex” is a way of them saying “Look, we’re the Adult, we know you and your reasons better than you do. Be a good child and just do as your told.” Then they use their World’s Designated Adult status to run ram-shod over any boundaries they find inconvenient. It’s more convenient for them to ignore the real reasons, fill the air with their ill-assumed reasons as to why someone would leave religion, because doing so allows them to keep their rose glasses on, it lets they continue to ignore reality and not have to confront the reasons people leave religion.

    But even if sex, or bacon, or caffeine was the reason some left a religion, it doesn’t make their decision any less valid, despite what the World’s Designated Adults insist. Even saying “you left to have sex” and it being the reason smacks of a “well I get to tell you what to do and you have to listen to me.” In a religion that emphasizes submission and self sacrifice, they seek to do everything they can to remove and ignore a person’s agency.

    • ephemerol

      Yes, because to even listen and acknowledge that there could be valid reasons to leave christianity and it’s splendid little god is too much for a christian to handle. Oh my! Must find some other explanation for what just went down…

    • M Milligan

      “But even if sex, or bacon, or caffeine was the reason some left a religion, it doesn’t make their decision any less valid”

      I was going to jump in and say something similar. Wanting to be able to do things that were considered sinful without having to justify my actions WAS a big part of why I left religion.

      There’s a crucial difference between this and what’s implied by “you only left Christianity [Judaism/Islam/etc.] to sin,” though. When someone says “you only left… to sin” there’s the insinuation that you know there’s only one right way to behave, and you’re just looking for a way to make the rules not apply to you.

      When I acknowledge that “wanting to sin” is part of why I quit religion, I’m saying that I came to the conclusion that there’s *not actually anything wrong with those things*. Religious people can keep telling themselves that those things are sinful, but it’s not my problem. It’s not that the rules don’t apply to me, but rather that those rules aren’t rules at all.

      • Bri

        Precisely…the idea that certain acts, like sex or eating bacon or whatever are sins is entirely a religious idea, Sin itself is something defined by the confines of the religion. In leaving the religion, we begin to realize that “sin” doesn’t really exist, it’s just a taboo that goes against the moral code of that particular religion.

        Now there are typically certain acts like murder, rape, etc that most people think are morally wrong, but like you said, they don’t have a stranglehold on morality.

      • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

        sin is just breaking a religious rule, in the end. Some ‘sins’ forbid actions that are actually bad, but for the religious, that’s secondary to the religious rule breaking.

  • ephemerol

    When we say that it is a lack of evidence that renders us unable to believe the claims of the faith in which we were raised, they dismiss this interpretation with the wave of a hand, accusing instead that we only quit believing (if we even really did that!) because we want an excuse for moral license.

    Thank you, Neil. If only I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard this cliché chestnut trotted out. According to the christians I’m familiar with, this is THE one and only reason why anyone ever deconverted in the entire history of christendom. Unfortunately, this shibboleth isn’t true for a number of reasons, a prime one being that practicing christianity makes it difficult to think clearly. But fundamentalist christianity, at least as I’ve come to know it, is merely a seemingly large, but nonetheless impoverished set of shibboleths and catchphrases, combined with the idea that the memorization of this set means that after you die, if you throw yourself upon the mercy of the court, a capricious Heavenly Emperor will probably give you the “thumbs up” instead of the “thumbs down,” even though you definitely don’t deserve it.

    This trite accusation comes with a lot of emotional baggage, and to unpack it requires some careful analysis.

    I’ve noticed that people tend to accuse others of the things they themselves are guilty of because they mistakenly assume that everyone else is exactly like they are. What I secretly want or feel ashamed of is what everyone else also secretly wants and feels ashamed of, right? Wrong. Contained within this accusation, I would argue, many christians are inadvertently confessing they would love to go sow their wild oats, but they’re just too chickenshit to go do it. Deep down, I think all christians have a niggling sensation that their beliefs are bullshit and so there’s a certain amount of grudging admiration, that you’re courageous enough to take the risk to go after what you want (even if their idea of what you want is just a stereotype), and they wish they shared your courage, instead of continuing to live their quiet lives of christian desperation. So, in some ways, this accusation operates as an unconscious compliment because it acknowledges that they only wish they were more like you, not less.

    The risk they’re most unprepared to take is that the capricious Heavenly Emperor might decide not to give them tickets to the Eternal Coloseum, even after they already paid for them, because, after the fact, he decided they can’t afford them after all. All the effort they could muster, well, it just wasn’t enough. Sorry! What these christians fail to grasp is the unthinkable—that those who deconvert do not want to go to the Eternal Coloseum at all—not even if the tickets were free! Moreover, we don’t want to play the stupid christian game called, “Chase the Carrot” anymore, or, for those who remain in the fold, “Pearl of Great Price.” This is too much to imagine or comprehend. Who wouldn’t want to go to the christian heaven? Atheists, for one. We think that “pearl” is just cheap dimestore plastic. But christians don’t seem to be capable of comprehending deconversion, so much so, that they say things that reveal that they think freshly-minted atheists still operate within the confines of their fairy tale world, complete with the same hopes and fears, gods and boogeymen.

    There’s something else going on here too, revealed by six little words I’ve often found tacked onto the end of the accusation: “…and not feel guilty about it. This is one thing that reveals christians think atheists are still theists, apostate theists perhaps, but theists nonetheless. But they don’t even understand what it means to be an apostate!

    Sure, it’s true, there are some who abandon christian fellowship temporarily because they want to escape the judgy eye of their fellow christians. Who wouldn’t? But this is not deconversion. Apostates are not atheists. They’re merely lapsed christians, and they can’t get away from their beliefs and thus from their guilty feelings, because their guilty feelings are their own. They manufacture these guilty feelings and haul them around everywhere they go because they are still operating within the confines of an fairy tale world dominated by capricious imaginary beings to which they still believe they are beholden. Often, these beliefs, and the feelings they generate, will eventually drive them right back into the fold. Their status as an apostate believer makes them feel even more guilty than ever! The one judgy christian a christian can’t get away from is himself.

    I’d like to point out that, regardless of what christians might think in their biased little brains, no one ever needed to deconvert or apostatize from christianity to do everything they wanted to already, right there within the fold. Not only can christians do whatever they want and still remain a christian in good standing, many of them are doing just that. There’s an endless litany of christian scandals from catholic priests to protestant televangelists to right-wing religious politicians, to the ministry and membership of the church in which I was brought up, that amply demonstrate that practicing christians are already free to do whatever they want. And Josh Duggar is the poster child for why none of them even need to feel guilty about any of it either: they’re forgiven! No christian need abandon fellowship in order to obtain an excuse for moral license, because christianity already functions as an excuse for moral license.

    In my experience, christian fellowships also function, in part, like a 12-Step group for the morally challenged. This is where perhaps a few people who know they have a moral deficit should go to seek support in staying “on the wagon” and walking the straight-and-narrow of being a decent person fit to live within a civil society. Unfortunately, such groups have a built-in downside. Every addict knows that if he finds himself in a strange city, he need look no farther to connect himself to the network he’s grown dependent upon for his next fix than the local Narcotics Anonymous meetings. To depend upon the weak for strength is necessarily going to produce some curious results at times. But I acknowledge that for a few, maybe religion might be a relatively good option. But frequently, these groups do about as much enabling of “bad” behavior as they do supporting of “good” behavior, and christian fellowships are no different.

    Those of us who are not morally challenged do not need the support of this group. We do not need to waste our time being patted on the back for simply doing what we already wanted to do anyway—leading a normal moral life. It might not be a life hamstrung by irrational christian morality, but non-christian morality does not equate to leading the life of a sex addict! Implying that this is the only possible alternative to christian morality is quite the false dichotomy.

    In my opinion, there’s a modicum of merit in desiring to do something you think you shouldn’t and possessing the willpower to not do it. But that’s assuming there’s a rational basis for the things you think you shouldn’t do. Regardless, that can only work for a limited time. Eventually you’ll give in. Nobody has perfect willpower. But this is the only strategy that christianty has to offer. For the average person at least, there’s much more merit in the maturity of matching one’s desires with their morality in one way or another. Maybe this means emotional growth through the recognition that what we used to desire isn’t who we want to be anymore, or maybe it’s the recognition that some of the ideas we were fed about what’s right and what’s wrong are stupid. There’s even more merit in minding your own fucking business and not imagining that your own private notions of morality are somehow objective and applicable to everyone. But minding everyone else’s business is what happens when you’re scared shitless by a fairy tale that you think is real and that others should also be epistemically challenged enough to also be hamstrung by.

    It must be true that just as there’s variation among people, likewise the reasons why they deconvert must be similarly varied, and statistically most people aren’t sex addicts. For most of us, certainly for myself, my deconversion didn’t change my sense of morality that much, and it didn’t change my sex life at all. Rather, I deconverted because I outgrew the impoverished intellectual box that christianity is. I recognized that the relatively small box that contains all the “intellectual property” of christianity is far too small to contain most things that must be true. In a sense, I graduated from christianity. No christian would say that you shouldn’t be allowed to graduate from elementary school, or from high school, or from college, and that people should be condemned to repeating the same remedial coursework for the rest of their lives. And yet they would say that no one should be allowed to graduate from christianity, an institution that is certainly far more vacuous, intellectually impoverished, and remedial than any collegiate academic institution. This shibboleth accusation is just one example of the kind of simplistic, shallow, and just plain impoverished thinking that christianity impinges upon the minds of it’s adherents, and why I had to move on in order to continue to grow and mature as a person.

    • boidofparadise

      you need to tack a title onto this and send it off as an article. i read the whole thing and was struck by your presentation of truths i’ve held for many years. thanks for an excellent post.

      • ephemerol

        Thanks. I’m not sure to whom I should submit it though.

        • boidofparadise

          magazines are probably your best bet. i’d first contact any that are known to be open-minded about religion, and ask about their policy regarding unsolicited material. also, be sure you can Get Paid!

          huffington post publishes a broad range of opinions and philosophies. they are, however, pretty lax with editing. i’ve seen a disturbing number of good articles there that were ruined by bad grammar, spelling and punctuation. these things are highly distracting. you, however, are ahead of the game, needing little more than a few words to make your letter a freestanding article, detaching it from the bacon and sex story.

          whatever you choose to do, good luck. the world needs more critical thinkers.

          peace,

          boidofparadise

  • Frank

    Thanks for confirming you just want to live life exactly the way you choose. Stop whining and blaming others.

    • Annerdr

      Frank, I think this may be the first time I’ve agreed with you. Yes, I want to live my life the way I choose. When I choose, I am happier and I get more joy in my life. It is a vast improvement over letting anyone else make your life choices for you.

      • Frank

        Your choice. Don’t blame God for your choice.

        • ephemerol

          What a ridiculous riposte. As if we would blame Jesus, Santa, the Tooth Fairy, leprechauns, or goblins for our choices.

          • Frank

            Santa, tooth fairy, leprechauns or goblins don’t exist,p. Why would anyone blame them.

          • Jack Baynes

            exactly

          • Frank

            I don’t see anyone blaming those fictional creatures.

            I never met an antisantaist, an antileprecahunist, an antigoblinist or an antitoothfairyist. Because they don’t exist.

          • Jack Baynes

            Right, no one’s blaming tooth fairies, leprechauns or God.
            Are you confused about something?

          • Frank

            Not at all. I am not confused that those fictional things don’t exist.

          • Jack Baynes

            Glad we agree, then.

          • Frank

            I am glad we do too. I am ecstatic that you finally accept reality of God. It’s the first step of wisdom.

          • ephemerol

            Simplistic, shallow, and impoverished thinking is what you call “wisdom”?

          • Frank

            No that’s what I call atheism.

          • ephemerol

            Then why did I have to outgrow the impoverished set of cliché chestnuts known as christianity before I graduated to atheism?

          • Frank

            You don’t seem very mature. It looks like you regressed.

          • ephemerol

            Hmm. You’re the one speaking out of the fullness of your immature heart, claiming things against the evidence and imagining we blame fictional creatures for our choices, which you only imagine because you know that’s what you would do. We’re the ones setting you straight, and letting you know we take responsibility for our choices. Who’s the immature one here? It’s you.

          • Frank

            The only thing you are setting straight is your ignorance. And doing it quite well I might add.

            I don’t believe in fictional things.

          • ephemerol

          • Frank

            Reduced to memes. Perfect.

          • ephemerol

            Christianity is nothing more than a set of memes.

          • Frank

            Gets worse and worse for you….

          • ephemerol

            How does the memetics of christianity have any changing effect upon me?

          • Frank

            I assume you are talking about memes but memetics means something else.

            Christianity isn’t a meme. Jesus should have a profound effect on everyone. But it’s their choice.

          • ephemerol

            Christianity is a set of vacuous shibboleths. Why should that have a profound effect on anyone?

          • Frank

            Don’t blame Christianity for you vacuousness.

          • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

            Not ours, Frank…YOURS.

            You’re a one-trick pony, and nobody wants to see you perform.

          • Frank

            Expect you, like a puppet.

          • Kevin P. Hepp

            as long as they are not a Gentile… Jesus was very clear not to share the gospel with them… So stop telling us, you are disobeying Jesus!

          • Frank

            Do you not understand Christianity at all?

          • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

            Frankbot

          • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

            xtianity is a *harmful* meme, shading over into *destructive*, and you’re a classic example.

            But you just keep believin’…I’d appreciate it if you’d take your crass, intrusive nonsense elsewhere, though.

          • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

            Frankbot again.

          • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

            A picture is worth a thousand words…ephemerol is probably tired of typing to try to instruct your willful ignorance of evidence based reality.

          • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

            Frank, WE do not accept your dawg as anything other than fiction because of a lack of evidence.

            and you’re not helping your case by dealing in insults, non-sequiturs and mistaken tu quoques rather than providing evidence.

          • Frank

            I don’t have a dawg.

          • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

            Yeah, and you believe the on YOU the disease looks good…

          • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

            Demanding evidence is simplistic, shallow, and impoverished? Then I have a bridge to sell you, you naive sucker, you.

          • Jack Baynes

            I never said that.
            I’m agreeing with you that no one is blaming fictional things. Keep up.

          • Frank

            Yes I know. I am not the one lagging behind.

          • Jack Baynes

            Honestly I was surprised that you categorized God as a fictional thing

          • Frank

            Why would I categorize something that is real as fictional. You didn’t read very carefully did you?

          • Jack Baynes

            I said
            “Right, no one’s blaming tooth fairies, leprechauns or God.” (Emphasis added)

            Frank said
            “I am not confused that those fictional things don’t exist.”

            I see now that you weren’t paying attention and made a mistake. Better be careful, the Big Guy’s watching.

            God, if you exist, please excuse Frank’s inadvertent denial of your existence.

          • Frank

            So this is your reasoned and enlightened intellect? Not surprising.

            Since God isn’t fictional he isn’t included in fiction things.

          • Jack Baynes

            Look, don’t blame me for your mistake.

          • Frank

            When I make one with you I won’t blame you.

          • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

            You did make one, but are too craven to ‘fess up to it.

          • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

            Evidence or GTFO.

          • Frank

            No need. God had provided all the evidence that even a child can perceive.

          • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

            Uh, your dawg WAS listed in with the fictional beings…because there’s no evidence otherwise that wouldn’t fit anybody else’s deity myth.

          • You are not converting anyone with this troll-ish rhetoric. Do you understand? You are a reminder of everything that sent these people running from religion. Cut this shit out, or your account will get banned. We only welcome polite discourse here. Your childish threats are to your own embarrassment, and are a pathetically poor witness.

          • SeekingCovfefeBarbie

            Frank is a terrible troll who always derails conversations. He will never cut his shit out. Please do ban him.

          • Frank

            I don’t have to covert anyone. People either accept the truth or they don’t.

            The responsibility of accepting the reality of God falls entirely on the person not anyone else.

            How ironic you do what you accuse me of. And I bet you don’t realize it or won’t be woman enough to admit it. Pitiful.

          • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

            Have you considered this, Frank? If you have, you’re a monster…if you haven’t, you’re a dolt: http://static.fjcdn.com/pictures/Eskimo+problems+i+wanted+to+call+this+eskimo+314+but_e60d29_4481772.jpg

          • Frank

            How do you know no one told this person? To even ask the question someone would have to know. This is why memes are meaningless.

          • ephemerol

            Wow. Frankbot is programmed to insult the moderator.

          • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

            we lump your dawg in with the other mythical ‘creatures’ mentioned in Jack Baynes’ earlier post.

            deal with it.

          • Frank

            You can lump whatever you want. It’s irrelevant.

            Now continue to respond to my every whim like you have been . Love it.

          • ephemerol

            Exactly

          • Frank

            Missing the obvious as usual.

          • ephemerol

            The obvious is that Santa and a risen Jesus are two equally fictional creatures

          • Frank

            You are welcome to believe that.

          • ephemerol

            Thanks, but it’s not really a “belief.” Until someone can demonstrate that people come back to life from the dead under any circumstances, I’m not inclined to “believe” that anyone did under this circumstance either. The burden of proof rests upon you that claim otherwise in spite of the evidence.

          • Frank

            Of course it’s a belief. Your choice.

          • ephemerol

            My choice is to refrain from your silly beliefs.

          • Frank

            As I said, your choice.

          • ephemerol

            Thanks, Captain Obvious. Is there an echo in here? It’s my choice to not believe.

            Done minding our business and seeking to impose your own private notions of morality on us yet?

          • Frank

            Morality exists. It’s your choice about what you do with it.

          • ephemerol

            That old chestnut?

          • Frank

            You mean reality?

          • ephemerol

            Tired old clichés like this aren’t reality.

          • Frank

            So why do keep making them?

          • ephemerol

            So why do keep making them?

            Dafuq is that shit? ⤴

          • Frank

            That’s about as cogent as any response you give. Expected.

          • ephemerol

            Au contraire, monsieur!

          • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

            ^^^^^^^Frankbot needs adjustment!!!!!!!

          • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

            Nope…your impotent raging at our refusal to be cowed.

          • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

            Our morality condemns your religion. Deal with it.

          • Frank

            Who cares? It’s irrelevant.

          • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

            I agree xtianity is irrelevant to any of us.

            Why do you keep flogging that dead horse? Do you actually believe anybody here will listen, especially with how rude and offensive you are, even as you cloak it in ‘concern’ about our ‘immortal souls’? I for one don’t give a fuck what you think, but wish you would have the perception and grace to realize your cant isn’t either desired or believable around here.

          • Frank

            Oh the irony… Rude and offensive… Look in the mirror. If you dare.

          • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

            Show me evidence that it’s possible before you claim it’s a belief rather than acceptance of realitiy

          • Frank

            Your choice.

            So telling that you are compelled to respond to me. Very telling indeed.

          • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

            Frank, your ilk try to make SECULAR laws that will bend us non-believers to your creed.

            THAT is what I fight…not your belief, your hateful intrusion on our rights as free people.

          • Frank

            I don’t fight to take any of your self perceived rights away.

          • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

            Thank you. Why do you believe differently?

          • Kevin P. Hepp

            Are you trying to say jesus is real? Everyone knows he is just made up… And Odin is very displeased that you have forsaken him.

          • Frank

            Grow up.

          • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

            Funny, Frank, I was thinking the same about you.

          • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

            none of proponents of THOSE myths are trying to use them to control other’s lives.

          • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

            add in yahweh and you’ve got something.

          • Ezzy666
        • Annerdr

          I won’t. Promise.

          • Frank

            Ok good.

        • Jack Baynes

          I expect, if he exists, he’ll return the favor.

          • Frank

            What favor?

          • Jack Baynes

            The favor of not blaming us for his choices.

          • Frank

            God isn’t blaming anyone. People make their own choices in life and will live with the results.

          • ephemerol

            Yep, and the results will be the same, no matter the choices.

          • Frank

            Yes people will live and die with their choices. That result is the same for everyone.

          • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

            Yep…and when we die, that’ll be it.

            Your belief in dawg doesn’t affect reality.

          • Frank

            You’ll believe sooner or later. Your choice entirely.

          • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

            That’s gotta be the most pathetic threat I’ve heard in a while

            “When you’re DEAD you’ll be *sorry*”…

            Frank, there’s no evidence at all, so why should I waste my time on anything more than working to deny your ilk the power you so crave? I do work to help people free their minds from irrational fear, which is all that you’ve got to offer, as is abundantly evident here.

          • Frank

            No need to threaten. The truth simply is.

          • ephemerol

            Are you sure what you’re labeling “truth” really is “truth”? How can you tell? A muslim or hare krishna who might also threaten me with their competing ideologies, which contradict yours, will tell me that’s also “truth,” but contradictory claims can’t all be right. Who should I listen to? Can you give me a good reason, something other than mere special pleading, why I should take your word instead of theirs? And why is your god no more able to speak for himself than any of the other gods? So why I should listen to any of you at all?

            The day a supernatural being can finally speak for himself is the day I’ll believe a supernatural being exists. Not to say I’ll think he’s worthy of worship, but at least then I’d have evidence to say he’s more real than Santa. All these people talking out their asses about “truth” on behalf of some supposedly threatening deity aren’t convincing in the slightest.

            The truth simply is. It’s brutal that way. The truth doesn’t care if you know what it is or not, or if it would make you sad if you found out what it was, and it isn’t going to correct you if you’re calling something “truth” that isn’t. But then, even if you could find out, which you never will, you wouldn’t accept it anyway.

          • Frank

            God has already spoken the truth for humanity. Accept it or reject it, your choice.

          • ephemerol

            When you say, “God,” you mean Lord Krishna, right? Wait, I’m confused, which god do you think has already spoken the truth for humanity? And how can you be so sure?

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          How can I blame something I don’t believe exists?

          • Frank

            I am glad you know that your fate is entirely in your hands and you have made your choice.

    • Brian K

      Flagged because it’s Frank.

      • Frank

        Perfect. Proving you got nothing.

        Pitiful that you misuse the flagging system and detract from its credibility or effectiveness. Selfish.

        • ephemerol

          Oh, Frank. You dear, sweet child. You’ve never had anything.

          • Frank

            Reduced to this. Very telling indeed.

          • ephemerol

            More vacuous vagaries. You can’t even supply your pronouns with antecedents.

          • Frank

            So very telling….

          • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

            ….typed the Frankbot

          • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

            Frank turned on the insult generator and wandered away again, folks…

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          We’ve got a love of life, and a concern for others consent.

          You’ve got divine command theory that says genocide is ok if your dawg approves.

    • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

      If it doesn’t hurt others, what’s your beef?

      What, your dawg’s little fee-fees hurt? Have it hurl a thunderbolt…but be careful what you wish for, since your dawg has shitty aim.

      • Frank

        I see school let out.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Nope, work….you see, some of us work for a living, and only spend time here as a game, trolling the troll.

          And I find it very interesting that you rarely, if ever, address points, and mostly deal in unfounded assertions, insults, and mistaken attempts at ‘tu quoque’

  • Yes, there’s a lot of harm done by religion when it comes to sexuality. So much time spent in negativity, shaming, demeaning, though non-religious humans also contribute to the general outlook, too. Consider the great muralist, Diego Rivera speaking about sexual relations: “Sex is like pissing. People take it much too seriously…If I ever loved a woman, the more I loved her, the more I wanted to hurt her.”

    Like you mentioned Neil, “compassion” and “kindness” are important in human relations. What is needed is an emphasis upon the positive, the humanistic, the caring in sexuality. The short story writer Sherman Alexie caught some of this sexual beauty in this scene from one of his stories: Roman and Grace are a Spokane Indian couple. He is standing close to her with his basketball between them, as if the ball represents the expectant infant they will soon create…

    “Michael Jordan is coming back again,” he said.

    “You can’t fool me,” said Grace. “I heard it. That was just a replay.”

    “Yeah, but I wish he was coming back again. He should always come back.”

    “Don’t let it give you any crazy ideas.”

    Roman pulled the basketball away and leaned even closer to Grace. He loved her, of course, but better than that, he chose her, day after day.

    Choice: that was the thing. Other people claimed that you can’t choose who you love—it just happens!—but Grace and Roman knew that was a bunch of happy horseshit…

    Damn, marriage was hard work, was manual labor, and unpaid manual labor at that…that was what was missing in most marriages: politeness, courtesy…thank-you notes to his wife for the smallest favors, did the dishes…vacuumed…

    …year after year, Grace and Roman had pressed their shoulders against the stone and rolled it up the hill together.

    Then he lifted the ball over his head…and pushed it toward the rim…it caught fire.

    From “Saint Junior” by Sherman Alexie, Grove Press, pages 176-178, 188

  • culuriel

    It seems to me, and I’m just tossing this out there, that if someone wants to restrict your sexuality, shouldn’t that someone’s existence be determined real beyond a reasonable doubt?

    • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

      you mean before agreeing to accept the restrictions? makes sense.