Hitchens on Religion And Sex

God Is Not GreatFrom God Is Not Great, by Christopher Hitchens.

The relationship between physical health and mental health is now well understood to have a strong connection to the sexual function or dysfunction. Can it be a coincidence, then, that all religions claim the right to legislate in matters of sex? The principal way in which believers inflict on themselves, on each other, and on nonbelievers, has always been their claim to monopoly in this sphere. Most religions (with the exception of the few cults that actually permit or encourage it) do not have to bother much with enforcing the taboo on incest. Like murder and theft, this is usually found to be abhorrent to humans without any further explanation. But merely to survey the history of sexual dread and proscription, as codified by religion, is to be met with a very disturbing connection between extreme prurience and extreme repression. Almost every sexual impulse has been made the occasion of prohibition, guilt, and shame. Manual sex, oral sex, anal sex, non-missionary position sex: to name it is to discover a fearsome ban upon it. Even in modern and hedonistic America, several states legally define “sodomy” as that which is not directed at face-to-face heterosexual procreation.

This raises gigantic objections to the argument from “design,” whether we choose to call that design “intelligent” or not. Clearly, the human species is designed to experiment with sex. No less clearly, this fact is well-known to the priesthoods. When Dr. Samuel Johnson had completed the first real dictionary of the English language, he was visited by a delegation of respectable old ladies who wished to congratulate him for not including any indecent words. His response—which was that he was interested to see that the ladies had been looking them up—contains amost all that needs to be said on this point. Orthodox Jews conduct congress by means of a hole in the sheet, and subject their women to ritual baths to cleanse the stain of menstruation. Muslims subject adulterers to public lashing with a whip. Christians used to lick their lips while examining women for signs of witchcraft. I need not go on in this vein: any reader of this book will know of a vivid example, or will simply guess at my meaning.

A consistent proof that religion is man-made and anthropomorphic can also be found in the fact that it is usually “man” made, in the sense of masculine, as well. The holy book in the longest continuous use—the Talmud—commands the observant one to thank his maker every day that he was not born a woman. (This raises again the insistent question: who but a slave thanks his master for what his master has decided to do without bothering to consult him?) The Old Testament, as Christians condescendingly call it, has woman cloned from man for his use and comfort. The New Testament has Saint Paul expressing both fear and contempt for the female. Throughout all religious texts, there is a primitive fear that half the human race
is simultaneously defiled and unclean, and yet is also a temptation to sin that is impossible to resist. Perhaps this explains the hysterical cult of virginity and of a Virgin, and the dread of the female form and of female reproductive functions? And there may be someone who can explain the sexual and other cruelties of the religious without any reference to the obsession with celibacy, but that someone will not be me.

– p 53, Ch. 4 A Note On Health.

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Can Atheists Have a Code of Sexual Morality?

Carnal Nation features a regular column by sex therapist and author Dr Marty Klein called Sexual Intelligence. He’s just published a great column called Can Atheists Have A Code Of Sexual Morality?

This question is at once hilarious, insulting, pathetic, and revealing. It only makes sense if you believe in two things:
1. Moral thought and behavior are essentially determined by the fear of punishment;
2. The definition of “morality” regarding sex is different than it is for other human endeavors.

And indeed, young children and emotionally under-developed adults do make moral choices based on the fear of punishment. Organized religion relies on and promotes this style of personality organization: “Do the right thing or God will punish you.”

And what is the right thing regarding sex? Every organized religion has highly specific answers to this question. They mostly involve “God doesn’t want you to do sex this way; God strongly prefers you do sex that way.” And if you disagree with God about your sexual expression, see rule #1.

So here is the adult version of atheist sexual ethics: Do not do unto others as you would not have others do unto you.

(Memo to religious people—does this sound familiar?)

In more contemporary and pragmatic language, atheists operationalize sexual ethics this way:
* Consent
* Honesty
* Responsibility

Dr Klein makes a great case for reason and understanding-based sexual ethics as opposed to the “Don’t have sex for fear of punishment” model. Well worth reading.

Welcome To Humanist Porn

Humanist Porn is a new site that seeks to forge a new path for depictions of human sexuality. For too long, sex has been defined in terms of religious morality and sin. For centuries this basic human function has been chained down by negativity, sexism and guilt. Much of the pornography created today reproduces the negative attitudes that stifle our full enjoyment of sex. This site seeks to discuss how we can change that. Porn needs to reflect a humanist perspective, depict sexual relations in a positive way and embrace sexuality in all its diversity.