Sex, Marriage, and the Christian

Here are some brief thoughts about sex, marriage and the Christian. It's not meant to be complete or exhaustive, so don't go jumping to conclusions, or in assuming the worst.

I think Christians are hung up over sex. Many Christian couples don't talk about it because it's taboo. It's of the flesh...dirty...and even sinful to fantasize about having sex with someone else, even though they all do it.

Christian, if you are married, do you and your wife experiment, role play? Christian men, if you aren't married you masturbate, don’t you? Do you deny this? How many times a week do you do it? Can't admit that you do? Then that's what I mean. If you're married, then how many times a week did you do it before getting married? Won't admit it? Then that's what I mean. How often do you look at pornography on the web? Do you have any latent homosexual tendencies that you know of? But I suspect you won't discuss this with even your closest friend, or your wife. Then that's what I mean. Christians suppress these things, as Freud pointed out, and it's emotionally unhealthy. [Of course, spilling your guts out to just anyone is equally unhealthy].

Sex is biologically based and yet Christians don't talk about it with their kids, except to tell them to wait until marriage to have it. Christians feel guilty about their sexual fantasies, and are afraid to bring them up to their spouses, so their sex life goes dull after about seven years of being married. I had an affair once. Would I have had an affair if I never was a Christian? I don't know. Did this Christian suppression in the area of sex cause me to look elsewhere? I'm not sure. Will you have an affair? You don't really know, either. Life brings upon us many things we never can anticipate.

There are reasons why people have affairs. One of them is that they no longer feel loved and no longer love their spouses. One of the vows we say at a wedding is that we promise "to love and to cherish" our spouses. That’s the whole reason for marriage in the first place. That’s the basis for a good marriage. But what do you do when your spouse no longer loves you? What do you do when you no longer love your spouse? My ex-wife told me she was no longer attracted to me. What would that do to you? Only people who have been married over 23 years like we were know the pain and struggle of it all. Some choose to go ahead living their lives out, fulfilling the one vow about being faithful, and yet living the rest of their lives unhappily in a loveless relationship. Others choose differently, like me. I divorced and remarried. I am very happy.

I remember going to a marriage counselor just after my ex-wife and I separated, but while we were still married. My soon to be ex-wife was having a hard time and so I went to see her counselor for a session alone. This counselor was a woman who was a Christian and worked one day a week for a big church. It was part of the church’s ministry to its members, of which we were both members. I remember her talking to me about commitment and the stuff my ex-wife and I had struggled with for a few long years. The stress was on commitment, mind you. After this talk I looked her right in the eye, knowing she was married for 12 years herself, and I asked her point blank, “are you happy?” Her eyes drifted to the floor, and then she realized what she had just done and brought them back up to meet mine again, and said, “that’s not the issue here. I am committed to my husband.” I asked her again, “are you happy.” And she said that she was the counselor here…she would ask the questions.

But it was I who was doing the counseling that day, not her. And she knew what I was saying. We both knew she was not happily married herself. Her body language communicated it all. Sometimes personalities and the birth orders of those who fall in love when they are 17-21 just won't work in the end. It's not healthy to stay together. And yet she was the counselor. We both knew she didn’t have much of a right to counsel me at that point if she couldn’t figure out how to be happily married. As we looked at each other she knew what I was thinking, “Counselor, heal thyself!” She liked me though, and we laughed. She saw that I was very happy. I asked her some tough questions. I even critiqued her counseling method in a few short sentences, since I could tell the method she used from the diploma on her office wall that told me where she graduated. She later said one of her superiors would like to take my case over since it was so unique, having quite a bit of knowledge about counseling myself. So I said, “if I am such an unique case, then he ought to be willing to counsel me for free!” Later she told my ex-wife that I was “charming, but arrogant.” ;-) I suppose it's arrogant to counsel the counselor and to know about as much as she did. I initially went into graduate school to be a counselor!

I remember so many older church couples who would argue with each other over everything...everything. They didn't even like each other. They felt stuck because of their vows. The bickering and fighting every time I saw them made me want to puke. Ahhhh, but they are doing something I failed to do. They are faithful. Bullshit! Their marriage is a sham. A pretense. A farce. A lie. I was not going to live out my life in a lie. They cannot be completely faithful if they no longer love one another, for being faithful must also mean loving their spouse. If it's only about monogomous sex, being faithful means nothing much at that point.

Pollster George Barna's research has shown that “a surprising number of Christians experienced divorces both before and after their conversion.” [www.barna.org]. Why should it be different for skeptics when they leave their religion?

48 comments:

Dave Armstrong said...

Christians feel guilty about their sexual fantasies, and are afraid to bring them up to their spouses, so their sex life goes dull after about seven years of being married.

Is that so? Wow, I never knew that. I've been very happily married 22 years and to my knowledge sex is still pretty fun and passionate for now three times your predictions, and still going strong.

and it's not just me. Many studies have shown that strongly Christian couples are among the most sexually happy marriages: a lot more than those of the swingers and advocates of free sex and so forth. it's a known fact that promiscuity before marriage tends to adversely affect monogamous relationships, because one is always fantasizing about the others and comparing them, etc.

God designed sex for one couple, married for life. That is what works best, and there is much secular sociological data to support this.

Likewise, all the things Christians believe in (stable marriages, two-parent familes [i.e., male and female!], no divorce, mother staying at home if at all possible, etc.) are now known to be far healthier for children (studies on the adverse effect of day care are now coming out).

I just posted an article about how much of hip hop music contains themes of broken homes. These musicians are expressing the agony of the fruits of the sexual revolution.

Martin Wagner said...

God designed sex for one couple, married for life. That is what works best, and there is much secular sociological data to support this.

Really? God designed sex for married couples? Guess that rules out the entire animal kingdom then. Next time I see a mother cat nursing her kittens, I'll be sure to let her know she's a damned sinner.

As for this "secular sociological data" which you don't cite, I can cite the Barna Research study that showed divorce rates for conservative Christians were higher than those of other faith groups, as well as atheists and agnostics. If Christians believe in "no divorce" it's too bad they can't keep their marriages from falling apart any more effectively than anyone else. Perhaps one problem might be the dominant/submissive role of husband to wife ("mother staying at home if at all possible, etc.") that leads to unhappiness and dissolution within Christian marriages.

In case you're curious, yes, I was married once myself. I was atheist. She was Christian. She cheated.

I just posted an article about how much of hip hop music contains themes of broken homes. These musicians are expressing the agony of the fruits of the sexual revolution.

LOL. There's probably a bit more to it than that.

John W. Loftus said...

There's one thing more about the difference between Christians and atheists. In my case, the Christian vows my ex-wife and I made probably lulled us into complacency. Even though we were not happy, neither of us really worried about the other leaving. She just didn't think I'd leave her, so she didn't have to be concerned about my happiness, and vice versa. There's a plus and a minus to this. In one sense there was security and trust. But on the other hand we didn't need to care if the other person was happy so long as we had that security.

With my present atheist wife, we are not lulled into any sort of complacency about the so-called death till us part vows before God. We have both been divorced before. We each know that if the other is unhappy for any extended period the other person just might leave. So there is no such complacency. We must show each other that we love each other on a daily basis, and we do.

John W. Loftus said...

Dave I am very happy for you and your wife. There are so many benefits to having that death-do-us part marriage relationship that I envy you, if you are both happy. Congratulations.

Rich said...

I have to say I agree with you on this John. I think that people feel a religious union should mean more then a non religious union. So They tend to take for granted that the other is in it for the long haul because that's what's expected of them. I think we get too hung up on what you should and shouldn't do instead of educating kids about life. I know for me it was confusing that sex is taboo until the magical "I do" then all of a sudden it's ok. I have been divorced also and my currnt wife and I share the same sentiment about the others happiness that you and your current wife do. Maybe rather than a difference between athiest and christian it's common to those who desire a good relationship.
Wiuld your current wife be happy with your marriage if you had and affair? or fantsies about another women during sex? If not maybe we are not so different. isn't happiness in a marriage all about making the other happy and consantly showing love regaurdless of beliefs?

John W. Loftus said...

Thanks Rich,

Would your current wife be happy with your marriage if you had and affair? Absolutely not. That's a deal breaker. Here I only pointed out why people consider having an affair in the first place, and it's because they aren't happy. And I am very happy. I never want to hurt her like that. She's wondeful to me.

or fantsies about another women during sex?

No she would not like this at all, although we have a "don't ask, don't tell" policy on this one, and I think in this case it's a good policy.

Dave Armstrong said...

As for this "secular sociological data" which you don't cite, I can cite the Barna Research study that showed divorce rates for conservative Christians were higher than those of other faith groups, as well as atheists and agnostics.

Yeah, I know. I've written about that myself: even in my last published book.

But you have to control for seriousness of religious fervor. When you do that, and you look at couples who, e.g., pray together, do devotions or Bible studies together; go to church every week, etc. the divorce rates go down to 5% or 10%. That's a very significant statistic indeed.

And certainly if you controlled for premarital sex, that would be highly significant, too (there is no doubt in my mind). In other words, for those who truly believe and consistently live out Christian morality (for the most part: as we all fail now and then), there will be an impact on marriage as in all other parts of life.

Those who don't do that shouldn't surprise us if they fall prey to all the prevailing societal trends. Christians are famous for that. But it makes no sense to critique Christianity for failures that occur precisely because folks aren't following the very Christian teaching that wold make a difference if it was faithfully followed.

Baby <-----> bathwater . . . .

John W. Loftus said...

But you have to control for seriousness of religious fervor. When you do that, and you look at couples who, e.g., pray together, do devotions or Bible studies together; go to church every week, etc. the divorce rates go down to 5% or 10%. That's a very significant statistic indeed.

Is obedience to the prohibition against divorce one of the factors you mean by "religious fervor"? Then I can see this, but it doesn't say anything about whether life is hell for them, or if the husband forces the woman into submission leaving her no personality of her own, or that they are happy.

But even if you are correct, and without looking at it I'll suppose you are, what are the statistics for any couple who enjoys the same kinds of things equally and who have open lines of communication between them about said things? What are the statistics about any couple who has the exact same fervor toward the same goals in life with open lines of communication who share compatible lifestyles and personalities and birth orders? What are the statistics about Jewish or Muslim couples who have a shared fervor toward their faith, or atheists, for that matter? Look this up if you want to, if there are statistics on this, and let me know. But my guess is that they'd be the same, which doesn't say anything about the Christian lifestyle producing better, longer lasting marriages

Martin Wagner said...

&versionBut it makes no sense to critique Christianity for failures that occur precisely because folks aren't following the very Christian teaching that wold make a difference if it was faithfully followed.

What exactly is this "Christian morality" of which you speak, and is there any reason to suspect that it's any more conducive to marital bliss than a non-religious ethical system based on reason and humanism? (Could it be this?) After all, we see from the Barna study atheist and agnostic couples with a much lower divorce rate than people blonging to most all Christian denominations. It makes no sense to say that Christian marriages fail because the couple isn't being Christian enough, when there are examples of non-Christian couples with more successful marriages, who presumably aren't basing theirs on following "Christian morality" in the first place.

Rich said...

I would guess John that they would be pretty equal since a relationship will work great if a couple follows what you just outlined above. To me that means that those are truths by which I should strive to live by.

Trinity said...

"Sex is biologically based and yet Christians don't talk about it with their kids, except to tell them to wait until marriage to have it."

So true, and I never understood this. In my baptist upbringing we was always told that sex is naughty, dirty, etc. Whenever people were kissing on TV, we'd have to cover our eyes. After being told that your whole life, you believe it. Then all of a sudden on your wedding night, something formerly so bad becomes something you are supposed to share with your life partner. That's really messed up. And to be totally ignorant on the wedding night isn't the best way to start off a new marriage!

Edward T. Babinski said...

Dear Dave,
I don't know how you have the time to spend online since you have a wife and multiple children. I don't suppose your wife has as much time each day to spend online and researching as you do. That could cause friction in a marriage, as I suppose it might even be doing in the case of J. P. Holding and his wife. I'm not saying friction doesn't come in all shapes and sizes, so please don't take my comments above as anything other than my own admission that I TOO am a bit overfond of the internet. So we have something in common.

We also have in common our love of sex. And of course all statements concerning sex and marriage are generalizations, and can be "refuted" by citing contrary examples. So in the end when dialoging on religion I suspect that sticking to discussing the Bible is the most direct route, rather than making generalizations about religious or irreligious folks in general.

All I'll say here is that I know of successful marriages by Christians and non-Christians. In fact one couple was in their 80's celebrating an anniversay past 50 years, and they were instrumental in getting Bible teaching out of the schools in the 60s. (No, I am not speaking about O'Hair, but a different couple, whose court case was every bit if not more instrumental in the 60s.)The couple I am speaking about is also happily married and maintained that laughter was one of the keys to their success as a couple and their longevity. I also know couples personally in Greenville who are freethinkers and whose marriages have lasted, including till death do ye part.

And hey, question for Dave, if God is Catholic how come he only had one son?

Anonymous said...

I don't usually talk about my own marriage, but as some people here seem to have experienced the commitment of a "religious" marriage as a license to ignore marital misery, I thought I'd share a little bit.

In my own marriage, I think, the opposite is true. I got married very young. I was only 22, my wife 24. As such, when we were married I didn't even really know who I was, much less how she and I fit together. That created some difficulties. I don't think that we ever thought that it was a mistake to get married, but we certainly had a hard time at points learning how to live with each other. Our marriage was, I think, in its earliest stages an almost constant negotiation, as we learned together we who were as individuals and as a couple.

The bond of our marriage did not allow us an easy way out. We couldn't decide that marriage was more difficult that we, at our young and naive ages had imagined it would be. So we had to buckle down and learn how to help each other live happily.

In our marriage, my happiness is connected to her happiness, and vice versa. So, for us, that divorce is not a generally permissible option (our theology does allow for divorce, recognizing the rality that Christians are every bit as likely as non-Christians to get divorced; but it discourages divorce under most circumstances) did not provide us with some sort of selfish security that did not consider the other person's wants or needs. Rather it reminded us that, for better or for worse our lives were joined, so we'd better make them happy ones.

It makes our lives more cooperative than competitive. We are in permanent relationship with each other (to the extent that anything "under the sun" can be said to be "permanent"), and so we depend on each other equally. I cannot be happy in my life unless I am happy in my marriage, and I cannot be happy in my marriage unless my wife is happy. So my happiness truly depends on her happiness, a realization which drives me to listen to her intentionally, actively, and non-judgmentally, trying to understand her and her needs so that I can do my best to meet those needs.

This is of cource very instructive in our sex lives. Since she is my sex life and I am hers, we must be attentive and sensitive lovers, or else we will have a very unfulfilling sex life. That means that when we talk about sex, we must also listen to each other without any sort of judgment, trying to understand each others desires so that we can then do our best to fulfill those desires. We are not uncomfortable in the least with our own sexuality, though I must confess that as an evangelical teenager I had a hard time understanding my sexuality growing up, and it did make me quite uncomfortable. Because of that I have long been an advocate of sex education, and have even led a "Sex and Relationships" retreat with teenagers, helping them to understand biological and spiritual issues related to their developing sexuality, while also teaching them healthy relationship skills.

Christianity and sexualit are by no means opposed. But, I think, Christianity does demand some sexual discipline, particularly monogamy. In my experience, however, far from making sex a dirty or forbidden topic, this has for me made sex something nearly sacred.

I can certainly see that our culture is loaded with sexual dysfunction, and that some of that is a product of a particular theological heritage which came into Christianity via Augustine's neo-Platonic background. But I think that it is inaccurate to make some of the sweeping assertions that have been made concerning the "Christian" view of sex, as though a single Christian position on such a complex and mysterious subject could be discerned.

John W. Loftus said...

Well put Sandalstraps. I stand corrected. Generalizations are just that, generalizations. There are exceptions, and I suspect you are one of them. I am happy for your marriage and also envious of your longevity. I really suspect my wife Gwen and I will have that longevity too.

Daniel said...

Dave,

But you have to control for seriousness of religious fervor. When you do that, and you look at couples who, e.g., pray together, do devotions or Bible studies together; go to church every week, etc. the divorce rates go down to 5% or 10%. That's a very significant statistic indeed.

Without trying to refute your correlation, just pointing out something important: people who do any activity very regularly show the hallmark(s) of devotion and discipline. It could be thought, and I am not aware if such studies are done, that the same correlation may also hold between X and low divorce rate, where X = exercising together regularly, eating at least 4x a week together, setting aside "date nights", being Buddhist and doing yoga together, being Hindu and praying to Shiva, being atheists and attending a UU church...etc.

I think this is an important consideration in evaluating the liklihood of divorce by criteria that demonstrate the ability of the couple to maintain discipline in their routine and a degree of devotion to each other.

Just a thought.

Bruce said...

Sandalstraps wrote:

But, I think, Christianity does demand some sexual discipline, particularly monogamy. In my experience, however, far from making sex a dirty or forbidden topic, this has for me made sex something nearly sacred.

On the surface, this talk of sex being sacred sounds good, but I think it is really just another form of perverse control on our natural sexuality (primarily women's sexuality). Sacred implies that it is some sort of gift from God, overriding the biological basis for our sex lives. It is also used to coerce women (and men as well, but traditionally the emphasis has been on women) to save themselves for marriage so they can give that special gift (virginity) to their husband on their wedding night. It is telling women that they are whores if they have pre-marital sex, so they better not if they want their future husbands to respect them. The "sex is sacred" argument is just a positive spin on the old "sex is dirty" party line. It is similar to the old "putting women on a pedestal" routine. It seems like a compliment but it is really meant to control women.

Now, if you didn't mean that sex was sacred in this way, if you don't consider sex as some gift from God, then please don't take this as a personal attack as I have apparently read you wrong. But I have heard this type of argument before, and I think it does way more harm than good.

Dave Armstrong said...

What exactly is this "Christian morality" of which you speak,

Traditional Christian values: that the secular world is so furious against these days.

and is there any reason to suspect that it's any more conducive to marital bliss than a non-religious ethical system based on reason and humanism?

I don't know. I was simply responding to John's claim that Christian morality made scarcely any difference and that sex in Christian marriages fizzles after seven years (dunno where he got that). I was repeating the studies I have seen many times through the years that this isn't the case; quite the contrary.

E.g., there is related research that shows how cohabitation before marriage is statistically more likely to coincide with later divorces than ton lower them (as the fallacious "try before you buy" sexual outlook would have us believe). I can't help it that the studies back up traditional Christian morality. They show what they show, whatever any of us may think about the results.

Dave Armstrong said...

In my baptist upbringing we was always told that sex is naughty, dirty, etc. Whenever people were kissing on TV, we'd have to cover our eyes. After being told that your whole life, you believe it. Then all of a sudden on your wedding night, something formerly so bad becomes something you are supposed to share with your life partner. That's really messed up.

Yes it is. It's asinine, stuopid,m and idiotic in the extreme. I was never taught these ridiculous things in the circles I moved in (which incorporate many parts of Christianity).

It's not Christian or biblical teaching, which holds that sex is good and great, and was created by God for procreation and pleasure, but under certain limited conditions, due to the human propensity for selfishness and lust and destructive tendencies.

To merely limit something is not to equate it with wickedness. No one thinks hot dogs are wicked because everyone should limit how many they eat at a time. Conversely, no one argues that kissing is a good thing and so consequently sets out to kiss every female in a stadium of 40,000.

There are limits to every good thing. Sex is no exception. Human experience has shown that faithful monogamy works best. If you doubt this, then go cheat on your husband or wife and see how they feel about it. It's instinctive; innate. We all feel this. Yet Christians get a bum rap because we teach that sensible limits to sexual expression are binding, and their violation sin.

But in any event, the real Christian teaching on sex is not what these clowns you grew up with teach . Every belief system (including atheism) has its fringe elements and corrupters, too.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Bruce, but that's not what I meant at all. An appeal to God is not an appeal away from biology, as we are biological beings.

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi Ed,

I don't know how you have the time to spend online since you have a wife and multiple children.

Easy. This is what I do for a living. I'm a published Catholic apologist, remember. I also write very fast.

I don't suppose your wife has as much time each day to spend online and researching as you do.

No; she does none. She home-schools our kids and does the work of a mother (what I consider by far the most important work in the world).

That could cause friction in a marriage,

Sure it could, and often does. It has no such effect in mine because I make sure to spend serious, significant time with my wife every day. Virtually every single night we are both at home we do something together (leisure activities): usually either watch a movie or documentary, or listen to music or just talk about life and parenting or about God.

So it's a non-issue. I did this when I had an additional job, too, to help with income. I am soon to do that again, with one part-time job about to begin and a possible third one in the works. One has to budget one's time very wisely. To us, being together is far more important than doing a bunch of stuff separately.

Of course there are all sorts of reason for happy (and bad) marriages. I've always been an advocate of multiple causation for most things. Again, I was responding to John's running-down of the Christian marriage ethic, as if it makes no difference. I didn't claim that no one besides Christians could possibly have a happy marriage.

And hey, question for Dave, if God is Catholic how come he only had one son?

Naw; God is Chinese: one child policy!

Dave Armstrong said...

I should say I make plenty of time for my (four) kids too. I work at home, after all. so I see them constantly throughout the day. I even was delivering papers for a while, and my three boys (we have one daughter too) were helping and learning about work and making some money. We're all very close, and they are great kids. We play sports, chess, hike, swim, watch videos, go on camping trips (18 days out west this summer), listen to music . . .

Dave Armstrong said...

Daniel,

I agree that many factors could contribute to happy marriages. Common interests are obviously one (whatever they are). When I said regular prayer and Bible study and so forth, I meant that more in the sense of "indication of strong religious commitment" rather than "shared activity" (though it is that too).

As a general observation I would point out that Christian moral teaching fits in perfectly with how we feel ourselves to be; ourt needs and wants.

Most of us feel that one partner is best for us. That's Christian teaching.

No one thinks divorce is a good thing. That's Christian teaching.

Adultery seriously injures the wronged party. Christian teaching says to not do it, as one of the most serious sins.

Try to talk to your wife or husband about numerous sexual conquests or escapades before you met; see how well that goes over. Christian teaching opposes fornication and restricts sex to marriage.

You men: go suggest to your wife that swinging or wife-swapping might be fun. See how well that goes over. Women want you to be devoted to THEM, and them only, and for this to last forever. Christianity opposes that; but "open marriage" says otherwise. who says that marriage is to death? You know who. Everyone wants that, ideally, yet when we come along and try to make it binding, so it can have every chance of succeeding, everyone thinks it's legalism and unreality. No; it is exactly reality, to make binding what everyone claims they want and want to try to achieve.

I was watching a special on the Beatles' wives, and it said that George had a crush on Ringos's wife Maureen and suggested one night that they swap wives. Everyone was shocked, and this documentary said that contributed to the downfall of Ringo's marriage (Maureen died of leukemia at age 47, by the way).

Everyone knows that George's wife Patti was the cutest by far of all the Beatles wives. :-) :-)

And likewise, John told his wife Cynthia in 1968 that he had slept with about 300 women. That went over great. Why is that? why is it that premarital or extra marital sex is glorified by our culture, yet if someone tries to DO it they often get in big trouble with their spouse? Christianity is the belief-system that says that we should stick to one person (of the opposite sex: a whole other discussion). It's almost self-evident that this works out best. Everyone knows it.

People may choose divorce if their marriage is a failure, but no one wants this, and no one sets out in a serious relationship with separation as a serious option. Almost all of us have that yearning to find one person and make it work forever (as a million love songs are about).

So Christianity simply says what we already know (part of a larger argument I've been having with DagoodS: that Christian morals build upon natural law and morals, and what every human being knows within himself).

I could go on and on with this, but you catch my drift . . .

Dave Armstrong said...

Sacred implies that it is some sort of gift from God, overriding the biological basis for our sex lives. It is also used to coerce women (and men as well,

Yeah, right. Okay, try this with your wife (if you're married): tell her that you think sex has no higher ontological meaning or mystical essence of uniting people and making them feel an indescribable oneness (let alone sacredness). Rather, it is simply a biological need and she serves as a convenient biological conduit to fulfill your need to have nerve endings feel wonderful and to give you physical pleasure.

That's all it means. It has no meaning beyond that. See how well that goes over.

Now I happen to think that if these feelings are so strong and well-nigh universal, that there trult is some basis for them besides mere coincidence or supposed social conditioning.

We've had now 40 years of the sexual revolution and 200-300 years of increasing secularization of western civilization, but I see no sign of human nature changing, or acceptance of promiscuity and so forth. Women still feel exactly the same as they always have. Men, too, are just as hurt by adukltery as they always were.

Promiscuity and sexual conquest may be glorified in male locker rooms or basketball courts or when women are acting ridiculous and going to see the Foxy Frenchmen or a Brad Pitt movie or something, but at ground level it is still as ugly and as dreaded as ever.

Christianity is trying to spare people tremendous pain by enforcing the rules of common sense morality. You would think that people could figure out just from reason and experience that there is something to this: that Christians and other "traditional" religions were onto something profound and right, and have some wisdom to give to humanity. But the sexual drive and secular societal conditioning is far too string for many people to get over. So they go and make the same mistakes. And they mock Christian values because, in my opinion, they know down deep that they are right, but find them difficult to live by.

That's why G.K., Chesterton famously said: "Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried."

John W. Loftus said...

I could go on and on with this...

Yes, Dave, we know...

We agree, I think, that a long lasting monogamous relationship is best. We just dispute that Christianity is the only or the best way to accomplish this, okay?

Martin Wagner said...

Traditional Christian values: that the secular world is so furious against these days.

What kind of non-answer is this?

I was simply responding to John's claim that Christian morality made scarcely any difference and that sex in Christian marriages fizzles after seven years (dunno where he got that).

I think sex in marriage from all different kinds of creeds is capable of fizzling after seven years (and sometimes less), but that isn't true of every marriage, obviously.

I can't help it that the studies back up traditional Christian morality.

So explain why Christians get divorced more. You're avoiding this like a kid who doesn't want to brush his teeth.

Most of us feel that one partner is best for us. That's Christian teaching.

No one thinks divorce is a good thing. That's Christian teaching.

Adultery seriously injures the wronged party. Christian teaching says to not do it, as one of the most serious sins.


These ideas are hardly unique to Christianity, Dave.

Try to talk to your wife or husband about numerous sexual conquests or escapades before you met; see how well that goes over.

Clearly no sensible person would, Dave. Most adults go into a monogamous relationship with the understanding that their new partner has a history, and has had previous partners. If you're starting a new relationship with someone, why would you talk about past relationships? You clearly don't have a good grasp of how people outside your little circle conduct relationships, and like many religionists you have a skewed, black-or-white version of the world in which everyone exists at the end of one of two extremes. Here, you're either a blissfully happy monogamously married sexual saint, or a wild and uncontrollable libertine into wife-swapping and sex with anything that moves. You don't seem to have much experience with actual, you know, people.

Christianity is the belief-system that says that we should stick to one person (of the opposite sex: a whole other discussion). It's almost self-evident that this works out best. Everyone knows it.

And yet people who adhere to this belief system have less success with their marriages than people who don't. Ahh, the cognitive dissonance. If Dave won't address it, maybe it will go away. Just keep telling stories about crazy promiscuous rock stars as if that proves a point. Also, keep trotting out false choices and either-or fallacies like this one:

Okay, try this with your wife (if you're married): tell her that you think sex has no higher ontological meaning or mystical essence of uniting people and making them feel an indescribable oneness (let alone sacredness). Rather, it is simply a biological need and she serves as a convenient biological conduit to fulfill your need to have nerve endings feel wonderful and to give you physical pleasure.

Again, you seem to have little experience with how men and women actually interact sexually, outside of your own marriage that is.

Christianity is trying to spare people tremendous pain by enforcing the rules of common sense morality. You would think that people could figure out just from reason and experience that there is something to this: that Christians and other "traditional" religions were onto something profound and right, and have some wisdom to give to humanity. But the sexual drive and secular societal conditioning is far too string for many people to get over.

Dude, it isn't the secularists who have the higher percentage of failing marriages, it's you Christians!

The more you keep cheerleading for the alleged moral superiority of your belief system the more it sounds like you're doing so in an effort to hide from uncomfortable facts. I believe it's called "whistling past the graveyard", or in this case, "bedroom".

Anyway, since you think Christianity is out to promote the common sense morality of monogamous heterosexual marriage for life as the be-all and end-all of human happiness, please address this: Do you agree with the statement that all instances of divorce and remarriage constitute adultery? Do you believe wives should always be submissive and accept an inferior role to that of their husbands? And do you agree with Paul that ultimately, sex is just a really really bad thing to do, but people should marry anyway, only to avoid going to hell for fornication?

I don't see much "common sense" in that "morality".

Bruce said...

Okay, try this with your wife (if you're married): tell her that you think sex has no higher ontological meaning or mystical essence of uniting people and making them feel an indescribable oneness (let alone sacredness).

I never said that sex wasn't special or meaningful, just that it wasn't some sacred gift from God. I also get those special, meaningful moments when my wife and I share a walk in the park, or a summer's sunset on a beach, or when we are just sitting next to each other reading a book. Sometimes the tiniest, most trivial moments make me feel closer to my wife than I've ever felt before. Sex doesn't have a monopoly on this sensation. In fact, we have many more non-sexual "sacred" moments than sexual. But all of these moments have a biological foundation, there is nothing supernaturally sacred about them. She agrees.

Maybe I need to clarify my last post. I wasn't talking about adultery and cheating in a relationship. If two people are in a monogomous relationship and one of them cheats, it is wrong because one of them violated the agreed upon rules. Rather, I was talking about sex outside of a monogomous relationship. The whole "sex is sacred" argument is used to control sexuality by convincing people that sex is some gift from God that needs to be protected until marriage. And since this has been imposed primarily on women, women are treated as impure if they don't save themselves for marriage. Because there are words like "gift", "God" and "sacred", it appears to be something whorthwile and wholesome, but the real motivation is to control women's sexuality.

There is nothing wrong/immoral/impure about a woman or man who has sexual relationships before marriage (if they ever do marry). If by "sacred" you mean nothing involving the supernatural, then go ahead and use the word to describe a loving sexual relationship (although there are other words you could use to avoid confusion). But the act of having sex outside of marriage is not in itself immoral, does not make one impure, does not damage any future marriage(s) and does not destroy the "sacredness" of sex between two people who love each other.

Dave Armstrong said...

But the act of having sex outside of marriage is not in itself immoral, does not make one impure, does not damage any future marriage(s) . . .

Ah, but it does do damage; this is what you don't understand. Setting traditional Christian sexual morality aside (it's not required for my argument here to succeed), there are known consequences to lots of premarital sex and cohabitation. It tends to lead to (strictly based on scientifically-controlled polling) less stable marriages, more sexual dissatisfaction and a higher likelihood of divorce.

This is almost my entire present point. The mounting sociological, psychological, societal, and experiential evidence is great testimony that traditional sexual morality works best: even for those aspects that all you sexual libertines pride yourself for being so superior to us fuddy-dud, killjoy, puritanical Christians: like longterm enjoyment of sex.

Christian morality: lived out consistently, with understanding and dependence on God for the grace to carry it out, works. It works because it is true (not the opposite, or mere pragmatism). If you want a happy marriage, be very selective, keep your pants on till marriage, find a mate who feels the same way, be sure you are temperamentally compatible (and as many other ways as possible), and that is the recipe for success.

Of copurse it has to be consistently lived. One could do all that and later, someone falls into lust or irresponsibility or substance abuse, or someone has a serious mental breakdown, and then factors other than Christian influence are introduced and everythiung can change. But the traditional morality by itself can only be a positive force for lasting, fulfilling relationships.

Dave Armstrong said...

So explain why Christians get divorced more. You're avoiding this like a kid who doesn't want to brush his teeth.

Hardly; I already answered it; one has to control for the variable of how vigorous and serious the commitment to Christianity is: then the divorce rates go WAY down.

These ideas are hardly unique to Christianity, Dave.

Didn't say they were, so this is neither here nor there.

ME: "Try to talk to your wife or husband about numerous sexual conquests or escapades before you met; see how well that goes over."

Clearly no sensible person would, Dave. Most adults go into a monogamous relationship with the understanding that their new partner has a history, and has had previous partners. If you're starting a new relationship with someone, why would you talk about past relationships? You clearly don't have a good grasp of how people outside your little circle conduct relationships,

That had nothing to do with my line there, which was rhetorical and challenging to non-Christian sexual mores and ethics.

I was taking the question a step further: not dwelling on the obvious, as you want to do, making out that I am some backwoods naive simpleton. I was at least as sexually liberal in my past as many of you are. I've been around the block. I've lived and believed all that nonsense.

So what I'm doing is asking, "why is this a problem if in fact, promiscuity and lots of free sex is such a good, wonderful thing? Why is it that it can potentially become a problem in later marriages, and it is a no-no subject if it is so wonderful? Why is it that we all have that drive to be the lone loved one of our mates, yet at the same time liberal sexual morality does everything it can to undermine that goal, by promoting free, irresponsible sexuality?

and like many religionists you have a skewed, black-or-white version of the world in which everyone exists at the end of one of two extremes. Here, you're either a blissfully happy monogamously married sexual saint, or a wild and uncontrollable libertine into wife-swapping and sex with anything that moves. You don't seem to have much experience with actual, you know, people.

Good grief. It just never ends, does it? It doesn't matter what we Christians argue; how nuanced we present things; how many times we make clear that we don't think all atheists are wicked and evil; you'll still accuse of the same idiotic attitude.
Some Christians hold to this position, but they are in the minority, and I am not among them, as I repeat till I'm blue in the face around here. But you seem new, so it's the same old nonsense: you meet a Christian and assume he is exactly like the fundamentalist wacko stereotype that does exist, but which is not representative at all of Christianity as a whole. I ain't a fundamentalist; never have been. I was raised in a liberal Methodist home, became a secularist for ten years, then an evangelical protestant, and then a Catholic. At no time was I anything like a "fundamentalist."

You clearly don't even understand my argument, because (typically of a certain kind of atheist) you casually assume that I am an idiot who lives in a naive Christian bubble. If you could get past all your stereotypes, I think you'd discover that we actually have a lot more in common than you imagine. I know it's tough but I believe you can do it. You have it in you. You just need a little encouragement to do better.

And yet people who adhere to this belief system have less success with their marriages than people who don't. Ahh, the cognitive dissonance. If Dave won't address it, maybe it will go away.

I already did. In charity, I will assume that you simply didn't read my post where I stated that.

Just keep telling stories about crazy promiscuous rock stars as if that proves a point. Also, keep trotting out false choices and either-or fallacies like this one: . . . Again, you seem to have little experience with how men and women actually interact sexually, outside of your own marriage that is.

That's untrue, as already explained. But even if I lived in Antarctica and never saw a woman in my life, that wouldn't change the fact of scientific polling data, which is what it is regardless of the past sexual history and understanding or lack thereof, of the person who presents it.

The more you keep cheerleading for the alleged moral superiority of your belief system the more it sounds like you're doing so in an effort to hide from uncomfortable facts. I believe it's called "whistling past the graveyard", or in this case, "bedroom".

Right. Why is it that I wrote in my most recent published book, The Catholic Verses (llok it up on amazon): "[D]ivorce rates among Evangelical protestants are virtually as high as that of the general public" (p. 205)?

The only ignoring going on here is your butchery or confused noncomprehension of my argument.

Do you agree with the statement that all instances of divorce and remarriage constitute adultery?

Of course not. That's why we Catholics have annulments to look into what the situation was, that may have been a serious mitigating circumstances.

Do you believe wives should always be submissive and accept an inferior role to that of their husbands?

The same Paul who taught that also taught (in the verse just before): "Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ" (Eph 5:21-22), and three verses later that the husband should love his wife the way that "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." Being willing to be crucified for someone else doesn't exactly strike me as a totally dominant superior-slave relationship. It is not at all, rightly-understood. I've never forced my wife to do anything. We decide things jointly.

And do you agree with Paul that ultimately, sex is just a really really bad thing to do,

I don't agree, because Paul never taught this. It's a gross distortion; typical of atheist "exegesis."

but people should marry anyway, only to avoid going to hell for fornication?

Lust is not the same thing as sex. Premarital sex is different from married sex. The same act can be good or bad depending on circumstances. You think not? Okay, then why is rape wrong? Why would incest be wrong, or sex with an eight-year-old. That's all the same act, but it is wrong in one instance and right in others. We simply say sex outside of marriage is another time that sex is immoral.

I don't see much "common sense" in that "morality".

It would help considerably if you actually understood it in the first place, rather than lash out at it before you even know what the opposing view holds. It's easy for me, on the other hand, to critique the usual secular view of sex, because I used to hold it myself. Nothing like firsthand experience to make one understand something.

Martin Wagner said...

This is almost my entire present point. The mounting sociological, psychological, societal, and experiential evidence is great testimony that traditional sexual morality works best....

"Evidence" which you continue to cite none of.

even for those aspects that all you sexual libertines pride yourself for...

And Dave tumbles ass over teakettle into fallacy-land. Disagree with him on any part of his recipe for marital perfection, and you're a "sexual libertine".

Is there any reason we shouldn't categorically dismiss you as an idiot from here on out?

If you want a happy marriage, be very selective, keep your pants on till marriage, find a mate who feels the same way, be sure you are temperamentally compatible (and as many other ways as possible), and that is the recipe for success.

In other words, "Be perfect! Like Dave!"

Okay Dave, find me one of these studies you're not citing which shows that no marriage in history in which both partners remained virginal until their wedding day has ever ended in divorce, and that no marriage in history in which at least one partner had at least one premarital sexual experience has ever not ended in divorce, and maybe we'll take your bizarre notions about human realtionships seriously. Until then, you just sound ike a weirdo with some major sexual hangups to us. But then, we're all libertines, so that figures, eh?

Martin Wagner said...

one has to control for the variable of how vigorous and serious the commitment to Christianity is: then the divorce rates go WAY down.

Dave, the part you're avoiding addressing has to do with all those atheist and agnostic and otherwise non-Christian couples who don't have a serious commitment to Christianity, and whose divorce rates are already way down. Christianity is clearly not needed for marital happiness. Elephant in the room, dude.

So what I'm doing is asking, "why is this a problem if in fact, promiscuity and lots of free sex is such a good, wonderful thing? Why is it that it can potentially become a problem in later marriages, and it is a no-no subject if it is so wonderful? Why is it that we all have that drive to be the lone loved one of our mates, yet at the same time liberal sexual morality does everything it can to undermine that goal, by promoting free, irresponsible sexuality?

There you go again with your false choices. Having partners prior to one's finally settling down in marriage is not the same thing as practicing wild, irresponsible promiscuous sex with anything that moves. The vast majority of people in our culture do in fact look for a monogamous romantic partner before becoming sexually active. Granted we went through a decade of sexual libertinism in the 70's that was eventually stopped by the fear of AIDS, but the 70's sexual revolution was an extremist backlash to an equally extremist attitude of sexual repression in the 50's. Both approaches to sexuality are equally unhealthy, and if you can say anything about our culture's current sexual mores, they have at least levelled off into an area of normalcy. Teenage pregnancy at the onset of the 2000's was at a 60-year low.

It doesn't matter what we Christians argue; how nuanced we present things; how many times we make clear that we don't think all atheists are wicked and evil; you'll still accuse of the same idiotic attitude.
Some Christians hold to this position, but they are in the minority, and I am not among them, as I repeat till I'm blue in the face around here. But you seem new, so it's the same old nonsense: you meet a Christian and assume he is exactly like the fundamentalist wacko stereotype that does exist, but which is not representative at all of Christianity as a whole. I ain't a fundamentalist; never have been. I was raised in a liberal Methodist home, became a secularist for ten years, then an evangelical protestant, and then a Catholic. At no time was I anything like a "fundamentalist."


Dave, don't get hysterical and defensive. I was responding to things you ACTUALLY WROTE, such as this: "You men: go suggest to your wife that swinging or wife-swapping might be fun. See how well that goes over. Women want you to be devoted to THEM, and them only, and for this to last forever." Dude, NONE OF US brought up such left-field topics as wife-swapping or swinging, YOU did. That illustrates a black and white outlook on the issue coming from you pretty clearly. Either you're chaste until you walk the aisle, or you're an uncontrollable sexual libertine. These are the arguments YOU are making.

You may think you're presenting a nuanced point of view, but you aren't. You offer false dilemmas, dodge questions, and continue to insist that only adherence to "Christian morality," which you haven't defined intelligibly, leads to successful marriage. Informed that non-Christians have fewer divorces, you acknowledge the statistics but brush them off as if they have no impact on your argument, insisting that the only reason Christians have more divorces is that they aren't being Christian enough -- even though atheists who divorce less often than Christians obviously don't have a Christian element to their marriages AT ALL.

You simply aren't arguing consistently or well here, Dave. Look, we get your nasic point. You think praying a lot and keeping your pants zipped until your wedding night is the only recipe for marital bliss. Fine. We disagree with you (which -- since you seem to have a hard time with this detail -- is not the same thing as saying we promote irresponsible promiscuity), but we're fine with you or anybody living your life that way. It's when you launch tortuous arguments full of bogus reasoning that we'll challenge the points you make. I know it's offensive and upsetting to feel as if you're being ridiculed. I went through that phase myself. The lesson I took from it was to do my very best to refrain from saying ridiculous things, and to make sure my views were supported and supportable before I argued them.

You clearly don't even understand my argument, because (typically of a certain kind of atheist)

Logical fallacy: Poisoning the well. You don't do yourself any favors with that kind of thing, Dave.

you casually assume that I am an idiot who lives in a naive Christian bubble. If you could get past all your stereotypes, I think you'd discover that we actually have a lot more in common than you imagine. I know it's tough but I believe you can do it. You have it in you. You just need a little encouragement to do better.

No, what I need is for you to stop presenting me with arguments that make you sound like a naive Christian living in a bubble, if you don't think that's what you are. You complain we stereotype you while your own arguments are rife with stereotypes. You divide people into two camps: those who view sex as you do, and irresponsible "sexual libertines". In Dave's world either you are a chaste Christian, or a "liberal" promoting "free, sexual irresponsibility". You use examples of wild, partying rock stars as if this is how all non-married, sexually active people behave. There's nothing in your statements that makes me think you understand a damn thing about how real people treat their sexuality and their relationships.

But even if I lived in Antarctica and never saw a woman in my life, that wouldn't change the fact of scientific polling data...

Ah yes, more of that mystery scientific polling data you won't cite!

The only ignoring going on here is your butchery or confused noncomprehension of my argument.

Then try making comprehensible arguments.

And do you agree with Paul that ultimately, sex is just a really really bad thing to do... I don't agree, because Paul never taught this. It's a gross distortion; typical of atheist "exegesis."

Uh, try reading 1 Corinthians 7 sometime, Dave, you'd find it enlightening. "It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband....if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn."

Lust is not the same thing as sex. Premarital sex is different from married sex. The same act can be good or bad depending on circumstances. You think not? Okay, then why is rape wrong? Why would incest be wrong, or sex with an eight-year-old. That's all the same act, but it is wrong in one instance and right in others. We simply say sex outside of marriage is another time that sex is immoral.

Not all instances of premarital sex are motivated by pure lust; very few are in fact. And premarital sex between consenting adults who are in a monogamous but unmarried relationship and are very much in love is, to put it mildly, hardly comparable to rape or incest or pedophilia. You're free to believe all instances of nonmarital sex are immoral if you feel like it. But the fact that you would even make absurd comparisons between loving consensual sex and sex crimes demonstrates more of your black and white thinking. Where is the nuance in this argument, I wonder? I see a very shallow, reactionary view of human relationships that lacks understanding.

Nothing like firsthand experience to make one understand something.

I couldn't have said it better myself! :-)

Dave Armstrong said...

You're acting like an absolute ass, misrepresenting my argument almost without exception. There is no point in interacting with you any longer. You either have a very poor knowledge of how logic works or you are so prejudiced against Christians that you can't see or accept what I am contending (I don't see how anything else could explain the abominable nature of your reasoning). Anyone with a fair mind can see how you have distorted my arguments.

For those who still want to look at rational scientific evidence, I have provided much polling data from reputable sources (mostly secular, from what I can tell) in the entire last half of my lengthy paper on my blog, which includes exchanges from here:

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2006/12/discussions-about-christian-sexual_08.html

Martin Wagner said...

Anyone with a fair mind can see how you have distorted my arguments.

I will leave that up to the fair minds here. Have I distorted Dave's arguments, folks, or is he just gonna take his ball and go home because he can't defend the things he actually wrote, which I have quoted accurately in every instance and responded to in detail?

Rich said...

Somehow the point was lost I think here. Yes anyone can have a happy marriage regaurdless of belief system. The things that make a marriage work are not exclusive to any belief system. I only guess here but I think that christian divorce is higher because of the high expectations and lack of educating their young about sex and marriage relationships is a big part of the problem. Many divorcees that I know are because of extramarital sex. This is my experience alone with no study/poll to back up my guestamation.
Kind of target here but just for fun I thought I would mention a poll I saw on CNN. According to this particular poll the happiest people should be well educated religious couples with no children, and the least happy would be uneducated single nonreligious. I know a few who should fit into the latter catagory but don't by the way, so much for stupid polls.

John W. Loftus said...

Dave, as far as my reading of this goes, you made some extreme statements that made Martin think you were in the either/or category, as he pointed out. When he pointed this out you upped the rhetoric. You became hot. He responded in a like manner. You and I have had the same experience. In this case it's like this. You failed to communicate what you meant, he called you on it. You clarifed, but in doing so, you used invectives against him. This is a case where you were losing the argument and so you "yelled louder" and pounded on the pulpit to emphasize a point. That's a pattern I've seen from you. Try a little more self-restraint and patience. It was your fault for not clearly explaining what you meant. It was your fault for "yelling louder" when you were losing the argument. Be a little more gracious. Be a little more patient here with people who do not agree with you. Be a little more clear in what you say with people who disagree with you. And be a little more humble. You do not have a corner on the truth. Be willing to listen and to learn in the interests of a better understanding. Okay?

John W. Loftus said...

Oh, Dave, don't get into a dispute with me or Martin about who is right over this. I would consider that juvenile and off the topic. Any such attempt will be deleted, as I have done with you before. People can decide for themselves. Let them. If you want to continue arguing the points at hand, have at it. Understood?

Anonymous said...

Highlights of the discussion--

Martin points out:
As for this "secular sociological data" which you don't cite, I can cite the Barna Research study that showed divorce rates for conservative Christians were higher than those of other faith groups, as well as atheists and agnostics.

Then Dave fires back:
But you have to control for seriousness of religious fervor. When you do that, and you look at couples who, e.g., pray together, do devotions or Bible studies together; go to church every week, etc. the divorce rates go down to 5% or 10%. That's a very significant statistic indeed.

And certainly if you controlled for premarital sex, that would be highly significant, too (there is no doubt in my mind). In other words, for those who truly believe and consistently live out Christian morality (for the most part: as we all fail now and then), there will be an impact on marriage as in all other parts of life.


I said:
Without trying to refute your correlation, just pointing out something important: people who do any activity very regularly show the hallmark(s) of devotion and discipline. It could be thought, and I am not aware if such studies are done, that the same correlation may also hold between X and low divorce rate, where X = exercising together regularly, eating at least 4x a week together, setting aside "date nights", being Buddhist and doing yoga together, being Hindu and praying to Shiva, being atheists and attending a UU church...etc.

I think this is an important consideration in evaluating the liklihood of divorce by criteria that demonstrate the ability of the couple to maintain discipline in their routine and a degree of devotion to each other.


Then Dave responded with:
I agree that many factors could contribute to happy marriages. Common interests are obviously one (whatever they are). When I said regular prayer and Bible study and so forth, I meant that more in the sense of "indication of strong religious commitment" rather than "shared activity" (though it is that too).

As a general observation I would point out that Christian moral teaching fits in perfectly with how we feel ourselves to be; ourt needs and wants.


But this last point is undermined by his own claim -- that "devotion to Christianity" is the actual binding force, or that there is anything unique or special about "true Christian"(R) marriages. He admits that "common interests are obviously one", but he fails to see that devotion to Christianity is a common interest. Ie, if two people are devoted to *anything*, together, in lockstep, common sense tells you they are showing the hallmarks of compatibility and will be less likely to divorce due to differences in philosophy.

What Dave must concede is that if couples are a good match, they're a good match. It has nothing to do with some magic morality within Christianity. If couples are shown statistically to go do *anything* together frequently, and engage in *any* activity regularly, with devotion and discipline (to one another and/or the activity)...then this correlation and statistical data makes perfect sense.

cum hoc ergo propter hoc

Dave thinks that Christianity is the causative factor when "controlling" for the "devoted" filter, but in fact, it is the "devoted" criterion itself that makes his skewed interpretation illogical.

The causative factor in the lower divorce rates among Dave's "committed" Christian couples is the same causative factor amongst secular couples, Buddhist couples, etc., and he's tacitly shown us that. If two people agree philosophically, and thus engage in the same activity on a regular basis, with discipline and devotion -- this is the sign of a healthy marriage. Am I saying that this is a bulletproof and airtight indicator of "no divorce"? No. But I am saying that Dave's argument that there is something special about "commitment-selected Christian couples", versus "commitment-selected secular, Buddhist...etc. couples" is fallacious.

You men: go suggest to your wife that swinging or wife-swapping might be fun. See how well that goes over. Women want you to be devoted to THEM, and them only, and for this to last forever. Christianity opposes that; but "open marriage" says otherwise. who says that marriage is to death? You know who. Everyone wants that, ideally, yet when we come along and try to make it binding, so it can have every chance of succeeding, everyone thinks it's legalism and unreality. No; it is exactly reality, to make binding what everyone claims they want and want to try to achieve.

I see absolutely no reason that this comment followed. I have no idea what conclusion you were driving at here.

Biologically, females in most species require a sign of health and a degree of commitment from males -- often in the form of a mating ritual, or in the form of fighting for the right to mate with her. By this, she ensures that the father is healthy and that her children will be protected.

The investment of a female to have children is staggering in the great apes, and especially human beings. They must devote enormous resources for years upon years to raising their progeny. Therefore, the selective pressure upon females to carefully choose males, and to ensure he will be around to help her feed the child and raise it, is overwhelming.

By nature, we are impressed upon to spread our seed in every garden. By nature, females are impressed upon to mend the fences around their gardens, to weed it, and to tend it :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post John. My sex life was on somewhat of a downward spiral before I read your post. I have now been rejuvenated in my sexual activities. I can't thank you enough.

Dave Armstrong said...

Many thanks to Daniel for replying to what I actually argued, rather than a straw man. How refreshing! You can have the last word. I look forward to future interactions with you.

My overall argument (rightly-understood) is, I believe, backed up by the research I provided. I'm sure much more similar research could be produced. But I've spent enough of my time on it, as far as I am concerned.

As for all the asinine charges thrown my way: I have never said that all atheists are sexual liberals or wild, promiscuous playboys, etc. Anything I wrote that was taken in that fashion was either misinterpreted or not written clearly enough on my part [one such statement of mine that was apparently taken in the wrong way - I take the blame for it - was clarified by a bracketed disclaimer on my blog].

Many times I am writing generally and making broad observations, not necessarily meant to apply to the one I am dialoguing with.

In any event, I can assure all here that I do not entertain any such view. You can either believe that or call me a liar or an idiot, as some have done. Feel free.

It is rather obvious, on the other hand, that atheists on the whole are more sexually liberal than conservative Christians. But probably not by much, I would imagine, seeing how readily Christians are compromising their faith when it comes to sex.

Randy said...

Daniel,

You are right that other religious groups show a similar benefit from having a common devotion to say the moslem faith rather than the christian faith. Still there are some real similarities.

1. See premarital sex as wrong (along with masturbation, pornography ,etc)

2. See divorce as wrong. Often their social life revolves around a small relifious community where there is a real stigma.

3. Tend to have larger families

4. Tend to have more traditional roles for the man and the woman within marriage.

The trouble with the data is that these things are strongly correlated. That is they can't really determine which combination of these is causing the lower divorce rate.

As a christian it does not matter to me. I live the full christian life and get the blessing that go with it. Less divorce is just the beginning. Strong marriages and strong families are great but that is hardly a reason to become christian. You need to actually believe it is true. These studies show some evidence of that truth but it is hardly irrefutable.

The problem comes when non-christians talk about christian sexual ethics like they are a problem. People who live those ethics never say that. It is just those trying to rationalize not living that way that talk it down. They make very little sense when they do. This post is a good example. Lots of very strong statments from people who know nothing.

John W. Loftus said...

Thanks for your input Dave.

It is rather obvious, on the other hand, that atheists on the whole are more sexually liberal than conservative Christians. But probably not by much, I would imagine, seeing how readily Christians are compromising their faith when it comes to sex.

Hmmmmm. What to make of this? Depending on how you define the term "sexually liberal" (oral sex? adultery? pre-marital sex? homosexuality? or open marriages?) I would tend to agree with you, even though this isn't "obvious" to me.

But here's a new thought for you about the claim that Christians are compromising their faith because of sex. I believe the Christian injunctions that you interpret from the Bible are too draconian. If my wife died or left me I would definitely try out the merchandise before marriage(if you know what I mean). Who knows? We might be sexually incompatible? I'm not advocating anonymous sex here by any means. But I would say that sex with a partner whom you are beginning to love isn't the boogey-man you make it out to be. And neither is homosexuality, or birth control. But once in a committed relationship, with or without the marriage deed, monogamous sex is the only sex I want, and I wouldn't settle for anything less.

Martin Wagner said...

Well, Dave is definitely still a little sore at my calling him out, but at least he's made some headway. Even though he still wants to say I was making straw man arguments against him and misinterpreting him, he does concede that...

Anything I wrote that was taken in that fashion was either misinterpreted or not written clearly enough on my part [one such statement of mine that was apparently taken in the wrong way - I take the blame for it - was clarified by a bracketed disclaimer on my blog]. Many times I am writing generally and making broad observations, not necessarily meant to apply to the one I am dialoguing with.

Well, there you go. This was the problem I was pointing out to Dave all along. Broad generalizations are a poor way to argue. Thanks for the clarification. It must have been difficult to admit to the problem and write that admission, but it's a positive first step.

In any event, I can assure all here that I do not entertain any such view. You can either believe that or call me a liar or an idiot, as some have done. Feel free.

I think you're being perfectly candid here and see no reason to call you either of those things. Making your position clear is the best way to be treated respectfully in an exchange of ideas.

It is rather obvious, on the other hand, that atheists on the whole are more sexually liberal than conservative Christians.

I think the difference is we don't attach the concept of "sin" to sexual behavior performed outside rigid boundaries of conduct. While we understand and differentiate sex crimes as such, these are always acts in which one partner is not consenting (rape) or not old enough by culturally agreed-upon standards to give consent (pedophilia), or any sex act in general where the intent is not mutual gratification but harm or subjugation.

The mere act of consensual sex before marriage between consenting adults is not seen by us as de facto harmful, but natural in one's sexual development. It can be harmful, if partners do not exercise proper precautions to avoid disease and unwanted pregnancy. But simply being sexually active as a single person is not a magic bullet that dooms one's chance at marital bliss. Marriages are difficult to make work in general, and any number of factors (usually financial) can make a marriage fall apart.

But probably not by much, I would imagine, seeing how readily Christians are compromising their faith when it comes to sex.

Is that really what sexually active Christians are doing, compromisng their faith? Wow. I'd think a voyeuristic God who wants to micromanage your sexuality would not be terribly appealing to anyone shopping for a religion! :-)

Bruce said...

The problem comes when non-christians talk about christian sexual ethics like they are a problem. People who live those ethics never say that.

Please define "Christian sexual ethics". Does this include sex education in schools? Does this include frank discussion about such things as masterbation? Does this include depriving an adult of exploring their sexuality and controlling their own bodies? Is a woman impure if she can't give her husband the gift of her virginity on their wedding night? If someone isn't able to find Mr/Mrs Right late into their 30s or 40s, are they still expected to remain celibate (it works so well for Catholic priests)?

They may never "say" that the sexual ethics imposed on them by their religion is a problem, they may actually believe it, but that doesn't mean it isn't harmful. Unless of course you believe in the concept of the happy slave.

Dave Armstrong said...

THE REAL PLEASURE OF SEX

(First Things magazine)

http://www.firstthings.com/ftissues/ft9405/public.html

• The survey found, for instance, that women who were sexually active by age fifteen were more likely to express dissatisfaction with their current sex life than those who abstained.

• The finding does not fit the doctrine of the sex indoctrinators who airily assert that kids are going to do it anyway and therefore they should learn to do it early and right as good, clean, healthy fun.

• The more disconcerting finding in the Redbook survey- disconcerting at least to the secularly enlightened-is that women who rated high on the religion index were having a lot more fun in bed.

• Not only did more of the highly religious women say that their sex lives are "very good," but they apparently did not have a lower expectation of what sex should be. Women who had sex only with their husbands, for instance, experienced orgasm twice as often as women with multiple partners.

• Among married "traditionalists" (those who strongly believe that sex should be reserved for marriage), 72 percent report high sexual satisfaction. That is 31 percent higher than unmarried "non-traditionalists" (those who take a more casual view of sex outside of marriage) and 13 points higher than married non-traditionalists.

• According to Dr. David Larson of the National Institutes of Health, greater sexual responsiveness among the faithfully married does not appear to be connected to any special sexual technique.

• Rather, it says here, he found "that sexual responsiveness and satisfaction are significantly affected by the relational context in which lovemaking takes place."

"Women are more likely to be orgasmic when they feel secure, loved, and trusting that their man is around to stay. Without a doubt, marriage provides a foundation that increases the odds a woman will be able to risk a level of vulnerability that goes beyond the ability to participate in the act but enables her to 'let go' and experience orgasm."
Commitment to marital fidelity and permanence, says Larson, "is a great motivator to make things better," including physical intimacy.

• Further gleanings from an article by William Mattox of FRC include the finding of UCLA psychologists that sexual satisfaction is closely related to the absence of sexual anxiety.

• One reason the faithfully married have an easier time with intimacy is that they enjoy greater sexual freedom.

• Not sexual freedom in the sense in which the term is commonly used, namely, the freedom to do what one wants, including the freedom to sleep around.

• Rather, they have greater sexual freedom in the sense of freedom from the anxieties that bedevil sex for many, if not most, who are not monogamous.

• They are

1. free from guilt about violating their own sense of morality.
2. free from fear of sexually transmitted diseases.
3. free from fear of out-of-wedlock pregnancy.
4. free from fear of comparison to other partners.
5. free from fear of losing the partner to another.

• Taken all in all, it looks much more like sexual freedom than what is commonly called sexual freedom.

• Mattox deplores the fact that, in all the messages about sexuality given to young people today, there is little mention of marriage and the joys of marital intimacy.

• The several sides in the debate over teenage sex tend to frame their messages in negative terms-e.g., "abstinence" and "safe sex." The messages tend to be aimed at avoiding problems connected with sexual irresponsibility.

• They are, says Mattox, fear-based messages and it is unrealistic to expect teenagers-who are poor risk assessors and believe they will live forever-to respond to warnings about what might, in their view, happen to someone else.

• Even if fear-based messages did work, Mattox thinks they don't communicate what needs to be communicated.

• "Sex is very different from smoking or drug use. Whereas these are bad ideas at any time and under any circumstances-hence the legitimacy of the 'just say no' message-sex is a wonderful thing when it is entered into at the right time and under the right circumstances."

• The upshot is that biblical teaching, moral reflection, common sense, and scientific research converge on the conclusion that good sex comes to those who wait.

• "If we really are as interested in sexual gratification as we say we are," says Mattox, "maybe it's time to reconnect sex with marriage."

Anonymous said...

Why don't you try reading Song of Solomon.

Daniel said...

I personally wouldn't (and haven't) indicated any correlation between sexual activity or happiness and religion. IOW, I'm not willing to wager that there is a high R-squared value (~1) in plotting intercourse frequency or happiness with sexual life against religious beliefs. I don't think things break down that cleanly.

All I am saying is that the idea that we can "filter out" certain groups to try to make or support such a point is fallacious. The filtration process ends up selecting for the criteria that are likely causative to a couple's happiness, and criteria that have little or nothing to do with religion.

Randy,

You are right that other religious groups show a similar benefit from having a common devotion to say the moslem faith rather than the christian faith. Still there are some real similarities.

I am saying that even in devotion simply to common ideals and philosophical compatibility, we find strong evidence that these are the causative factors, and that the particulars of those ideals/philosophies/religions do not bear on the correlation.

With respect to your list -- although Christians may "see" and "preach" premarital sex as wrong, there is very little difference between most Christian teens and twenty-somethings in their sex lives and other religions or atheists. As I said, try to "select for" only the "true Christians(R)", and you lose the entire power of the argument.

With respect to divorce -- that's been the discussion between Dave and Martin and others for most of the comment thread. The point is, although they may "see" it as wrong, and "preach" it as such, Christians are just as likely as others to divorce. Ditto with respect to the "true Christians(R)" comeback.

With respect to family size -- the increase in breeding amongst Christians and Muslims is part of the reason these religions have survived and thrived for generations: a necessary criterion for a successful religion is that the adherents breed and spread the religion to their progeny.

With respect to "traditional roles" -- I would have to say that this falls in line with the family size issue. Large families induce "stay at home moms" and working dads. Both I and my wife work. We have two dogs, no kids. Statistically speaking, we are the happiest demographic: married, no kids.

The other two "happy factors" are religion and age. Since we're young and non-religious, we are on the "unhappy" end of those demographics. (I found it startling that older people are happier, but not too surprising that religious people say that they are happier) But you wouldn't know it [that we're only predicted to be moderately happy] if you talked to us :)

Daniel said...

Dave,

I would agree with the idea that sex is better inside of a strongly committed relationship, be it marriage or engagement or a years-long cohabitation. Note the discrepancy between married/unmarried non-traditionalists...

The emotional and bonding aspect of sex in social primates is an integral part of happiness with it; physical pleasure is only a drive.

Numbers 1 and 3 don't apply very well to unbelievers who have a little age and some commitment. Number 2 only really applies to persons who are fairly promiscuous and/or engage in unsafe sex. Number 4 is something I've never worried about, and neither has my wife. Number 5 is an emotional insecurity that correlates to the health of any relationship, regardless of commitment level or religion.

I would agree 100% that women who feel loved and emotionally fulfilled are much happier in bed -- physically and otherwise. I know more than a few girls who had never had an orgasm from intercourse until they were in a relationship with a man who was very good to them and loved them and was committed to them. Goes back to the issue I mentioned earlier -- the female's inbuilt drive to find a mate that will attach to her to help her with the investment she has to put into childrearing.

The same does not really apply for us men. And that's why your survey didn't talk much about men, by themselves. We are driven to spread our genes. They are driven to only receive genes as a part of a package deal :)

Charles said...

i am a christian. my wife and i have discussed this issue openly. Forget the research and animal kingdom stuff, what does the bible have to say specifically?

TrueJoy said...

Wow, I find it quite hilarious that some of you claim to be "educated" however you continue to bring up the word "happy". I wasn't happy so I wasn't going to stay in this relationship. Happy, sad, etc. are all emotions. Emotions are based on circumstances. Even if my circumstances surrounding me are not "mountain top" circumstances, I will still choose to be full of Joy (happiness, again, is an emotion and we can choose to be this way or another, regardless of our circumstances). If you got divorced because you were unhappy - wow, how ignorant. WAY TO GO!! Teach our children and the younger generation that if you aren't "happy" with something then it's okay to abandon it; and we wonder why kids are so troubled today?!?!?!? DUHHH!