Monthly Archives: June 2011

Sex is great, sex is good: Part 3

Well, it wasn’t my plan for this series to focus only on Christian religions, but so far I lack the information I need on Judaism and Islam to give them a proper treatment (which is entirely my fault – I need to do more research). So I will finish up this series with a look at Roman Catholicism. In the meantime, if anyone knows of any sources containing explanations by Jewish or Islamic authorities of why premarital sex is “wrong,” please let me know!

So to recap, in Parts 1 and 2 of Sex is great, sex is good I criticized a Methodist minister and a Presbyterian minister, respectively, for saying some awful things about sex and marriage. The views they presented were disparaging, biased, false, and demeaning of human dignity. Such views are especially unacceptable from people who are supposed to provide leadership and counseling to others.

Meanwhile, the Roman Catholic Church’s views on sex are some of the most demeaning and dehumanizing of them all.

The Church’s teachings on sex and marriage are outlined in detail in two documents, the Educational Guidance in Human Love, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church (click for some relevant sections). In these two texts, sex outside of marriage is repeatedly referred to as a selfish, meaningless moral disorder. One that is “gravely contrary” to the dignity of persons.

We are told that “Sexual intercourse, ordained towards procreation, is the maximum expression on the physical level of the communion of love of the married.” However, any other kind of sex is wrong. Selfish. Merely genital. Gay sex, premarital sex, even sex between a married couple using contraception is unacceptable, we are told, in God’s eyes.

This already should be indication that the Catholic Church does not care about what is good, or healthy, or empowering for human beings. They have an incredibly narrow definition of what is acceptable, and they have nothing but the strongest condemnation for those who do not comply. When you consider the fact they are even willing to lie, brazenly and unapologetically, to get their flock to conform, it becomes obvious that the Church is concerned with control, not goodness or decency.

The condemnations the Catholic Church makes about the “wrong kind of sex” are by now familiar territory, but it still needs to be stated exactly why these views are so incredibly false.

There is nothing wrong with “not having sex the way the Church says you can.” There is no shame in feeling good with another person (or with yourself). No guilt, no moral reprobation. Acts that bring pleasure to humans are good things, whether we’re talking about the good feeling of a kiss, a hug, a massage, or sex. The fact that two or more people can reciprocally bring pleasure to each other is even better.

The Church claims that only married sex designed to produce babies can be meaningful. This is utter nonsense. Sex can still be an expression of love or intimacy regardless of whether you’ve signed a contract. Such a thing is not necessary for two people to care about each other’s comfort and pleasure, to take joy in the joy of the other, to bring their full minds and personalities and emotions into the act of lovemaking. Sex doesn’t need marriage to have that!

If you want to believe that your religion or god brings some kind of extra meaning to sex only to couples who are married, then that is your right. But to we humanists, the generosity, the caring, the respect, and the love for the other person are already there. It is a lie to say otherwise, and it is, truly, contrary to the dignity of humans to call such a thing immoral.

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TFL joins the Atheist Blogroll

As the title says, The Floating Lantern has been added to the Atheist Blogroll! (See link in the sidebar)

The Atheist Blogroll is a community-building service provided free of charge to atheist and agnostic bloggers around the world. If you’d like to join, visit Mojoey at Deep Thoughts for more information.

I’ve also added the Scarlet Letter of Atheism to my blog to show my participation in The OUT Campaign (again, see the sidebar link for info).

 

That’s all for now! I hope to have Part 3 of my Sex is great, sex is good series up by sometime tonight.

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Lolz in the New York Post

I had to post this. When I saw the front page of the New York Post today, I busted out laughing in the supermarket.

NY Post front page

A COP SAVED A GIRL FROM COMMITTING SUICIDE! (Oh yeah and the senate passed the gay marriage bill.)

What a shitty newspaper.

Anyway, this is great news for gay couples! Congrats New York and everyone who fought for this bill!

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I have sex

I love this video. This is what our society needs – more people standing up for the idea that sex is good.

So many people are willing to call us sinful, immoral, or wrong for having sex (depending on when we do it, who we do it with, how we do it, etc.) It takes a lot of guts to face off against such moral judgement – especially when it comes from a parent, a friend, or some other person whose respect means something to you – and state unashamedly, “I have sex.”

I have sex, and I enjoy it!

Feel free to post your own declarations in the comments!

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Sex is great, sex is good: Part 2

This is Part 2 in my series acclaiming sex, and defending pre-marital sex in particular from condemnation by the religious (here was Part 1).

To recap, the point of this series is to point out how bad many religious authority’s opinions and understanding of human sexuality are. Pastors, priests, and rabbis are supposed to be knowledgable, thoughtful people, qualified to give advise and moral guidance on imporant matters such as sex. And yet the knowledge and understanding they should demonstrate is sadly perverted by their need to adhere to ridiculous, outdated, dehumanizing religious views.

Presbyterian minister Don Hurray believes that pre-marital sex is a moral evil.

It’s amazing how one gets used to hearing this, to the point where it doesn’t sound utterly insane anymore. I would say that stealing is immoral. Rape is immoral, or a “moral evil,” if you enjoy such fantastic language. Murder is immoral. All of these acts harm people in some way. Yet some people want to put “touching someone’s genitals without a contract” on the list? It’s amazing that we even need to point out how ridiculous that sounds.

So, what does minister Hurray say is immoral about pre-marital sex?

I would first note that Hurray takes up a great deal of space not telling us. He starts off by calling our desire for sex an “out of control” or “untameable” libido – as if merely calling it a bad name made it true. Why is my desire for food and water not also described in such terms? Because Hurray wants to disparage one, and not the other. He offers no argument for why my desire for sex is “out of control” but my desire for food is natural, and I take it that he has none.

Hurray’s explanation for why pre-marital sex is evil is itself rather short. Here is the first part:

I would have you focus on why God said what you are doing is wrong. From statistics once a couple have sex their chances of having a happy marriage go way down. You guess why?

The problem with these statistics, which Hurray doesn’t bother to cite, is that they indicate a correlation – they say nothing about the cause of the relationship between the two factors.

Theresa Notaré has written an article on sex for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website that does cite relevant studies, but she commits the same error as Hurray (who I’ll come back to in a minute). After citing several studies that show a positive correlation between pre-marital sex and divorce, Notaré says this supports her conclusion that “…sex outside of marriage causes emotional harm and also seems to harm marriage and the family.”

But we do not know that “emotional harm” is the cause for the correlation. Perhaps people who are unlikely to have pre-marital sex do so because they hold traditional values about sex, and those same people, once married, are unlikely to get a divorce due to those same traditional values. That is, after all, the interpretation of the data given by some of the researchers themselves!

We interpret the results of our analysis to mean that women who continue to hold traditional attitudes about marriage are less likely than other women to consider both premarital sex and divorce as acceptable options for themselves. It is likely that people who feel constrained by traditional expectations early in life will maintain this orientation throughout their lives, predisposing them to wait until marriage to begin sexual activity and to reject divorce as an option if they should become unhappy with their marriage.

Furthermore, this study’s statistical analyses actually ruled out a direct causal relationship – such as emotional harm – between the two factors under investigation. In other words, Notaré’s conclusion that this correlation is the result of emotional harm is directly contradicted by the study itself. By misrepresenting the research as if it suppported her conclusion, Notaré is lying to us.

Hurray is being similarly dishonest – or he simply doesn’t know what he’s talking about – when he implies that a correlation is a causation.

But his explanation for why pre-marital sex is immoral gets worse from there. Here is the rest of it:

Also, chances are that those who have sex and say they will get married never do.  You will eventually come to the conclusion like many “why pay for something I can get free.”

What an awful view of marriage! As if sex were the only thing worthwhile in it. As if there were no value in making a lifelong promise of love to another person. This would be an excellent opportunity for Minister Hurray to tell us all the wonderful things about marriage that don’t involve sex.

…But he doesn’t. That’s where he drops the issue. Apparently Hurray sees marriage as the toll one must pay for sex.

How’s that for moral guidance?

Just as in Part 1, here again we have a religious authority and counselor presenting a view of human sexuality completely devoid of sense, factual support, and decency. How does it help people to concern yourself with whether or not they have a ring on their finger when they have sex, instead of focusing on the quality of their relationship? How does it help to describe pre-marital sex using the same language we use to describe murder? How can such a perversion of values even exist?

As I stated in my opening, the adherence to particular religious beliefs comes first, and the twisted logic explaining those beliefs and the bending of data to fit one’s conclusions, follow.

Stay tuned for (most likely the final in this series) Part 3.

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Sex is great, sex is good: Part 1

UPDATE #2: I have responded to Rev. Neal.
UPDATE:
Rev. Neal has responded to my criticisms.

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One thing I hate about the teachings of many Western religions (and some others) is the way they villainize pre-marital sex. They assert that sex outside the context of marriage is unhealthy, not based on love, and immoral. And the reasons they give for this are frustratingly bad.

I decided to do a post here in which I take a look at what authorities from various Western religions have to say about sex. After this entry got a bit lengthy, I decided I would have to do this in parts. This is part 1.

To start off with, sex is wonderful! Yes you have to be safe about it, yes you have to be ready for it, but when adequate caution is taken sex can be a beautiful thing. At its most basic, sex is a way of bringing extreme pleasure to yourself and another person. It can be a largely physical experience, or it can be a physical and emotional connection between two people sharing their love for each other.

These are good things. I often find that religions and their adherents do not treat them as such. While claiming to have the best, most uplifting views of sexuality, the unfortunate reality is that they often have the worst.

Here is Rev. Gregory S. Neal – a man who has served as a senior pastor in the United Methodist Church (UMC) for 18 years, who has served on several boards and agencies of the UMC, and who has lectured at colleges and regional seminars – explaining what is wrong with pre-marital sex. He says that pre-marital sex, along with polygamous and homosexual sex, “does harm to people, relationships, and families,” and that “…the *ideal* [emphasis his] for all sexual relations is the marriage covenant.  It is within such a covenant that loving, caring, meaningful sexual sharing can occur which neither exploits nor demeans.”

Already, we have a view of sexuality that seems to make little sense.

Sexual acts, insofar as they tap into our emotions, have psychological consequences for a person. Absolutely. For example, what if you felt that your partner was not emotionally open to you during sex, and you wanted him or her to be more so? That is a valid emotional need. Or what if you felt like your partner was using sex partially as a way to deal with a personal insecurity, and not entirely because of love? Of course such an imbalance in what sex means to you and your partner could be hurtful! I do not think anyone denies that these are real concerns, or that it is in a couple’s best interests to address them.

But it is important to recognize what the actual concern is. In the first example above, the issue is openness. Openness is not something that only comes up during sex – it’s important in any part of a relationship. Openness is also not something that only unmarried couples have difficulty with. Married couples have to work on it as well! So why would Neal say specifically that pre-marital sex is the problem, as opposed to, say, a lack of openness in relationships? What is so harmful about pre-marital sex itself?

Neal goes so far as to imply that pre-marital (and polygamous and homosexual) sex is by necessity exploitative and/or demeaning.

But does this comport with anyone’s experience at all? Can you imagine this line between a man and his girlfriend?

“I’m sorry, honey – I do love you, but I don’t want to demean you by physically expressing it.”

This is patent nonsense. If my partner and I wish to have sex with each other, we are no more demeaning each other than people who kiss, cuddle, or hug before marriage. And despite Neal’s anti-gay statements, it is not any more demeaning just because my partner has the same genitals as me.

The objections here are not merely philosophical. The fact is that most people have had premarital sex and many of them are happy about it. What actually seems to do harm is telling people that they’re immoral for doing something that can be safe, pleasurable, and beautiful.

And it is beautiful. One of the things that is so rewarding about sex with my partner – my girlfriend – is that not only is it extremely pleasurable for me, but I find great joy in the fact that I can give that pleasure to her. The reciprocity of sex, just like the reciprocity of friendship and basic human kindness, is one of the greatest things about it.

But according to Neal, there must be something wrong with this picture. The person who wrote Neal asking for his advice says that she, too, is in a loving, committed relationship, and asks if sex under these circumstances could be “wrong.” Neal avoids using the word in his reply, but every sentence reeks of moral judgement. Unmarried sex is “not affirmed.” This is the “correct and appropriate” stance. Pre-marital sex is harmful. It is within marriage that “loving, caring, meaningful sexual sharing can occur which neither exploits nor demeans.”

In the end, Neal suggests to the couple that if they have a committed, loving relationship – you know, like married people – why not just get married? I assume Neal might even suggest the same thing to me.

I’ll tell you why. Because there is nothing wrong with not getting married. There is nothing impossible about loving someone and treating them well, and enjoying sex with them outside of marriage. And if there were, putting a ring on someone’s finger would not fix it! The only way to fix relationship issues is to work on them, not sign a contract.

That is what Neal, and presumably other members of his church, cannot accept – that sex can be valid without a contract. That people don’t need his ceremony, or his god, to be good to each other. If they want it, that’s their prerogative. But to tell people that they are immoral or hurting their loved ones because they’re conducting their relationship in some other way is, to use Neal’s words, harmful and demeaning.

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