Category Archives: Culture
Sex and Religion
Attitudes towards sex seem rather different between atheists and mainstream religions. Mainstream religions have developed strong moral messages regarding human sexuality. Engaging in sexual activity outside of marriage and for reasons other than procreation are regarded as sinful.
I am not going to debate the religious perspectives. I merely ask: why does the abandonment of religion lead to radically different views on sexuality?
The same cannot be said for other behaviors where morality plays a role. Both atheists and theists reject murder, stealing and lying. Why such disagreement in scxual matters?
I don’t know why religious attitudes are as they are, although I am aware of various theories about it. Religious attitudes were developed before contraception was a widespread practice. So, intact families and care for children may have had something to do with the development of these attitudes.
The “modern” atheistic view is that contraception frees us from the need to regulate or restrict sexuality. Out-of-wedlock children are no longer a central issue (unless the contraception fails, which is relatively rare). Therefore, why place any moral restrictions on human sexuality? Sex can be viewed as a kind of “sport”, or just another activity that brings us pleasure. Use contraception and enjoy the pleasures of sex, no strings attached. Why is sex a sin if it does not lead to unwanted pregnancy?
To me, this divergence of attitudes towards human sexuality is a mystery. Can atheists defend the perspective that sex is a sport? Human sexuality involves our deepest emotions and connections with others. Should it be engaged in lightly? A deep belief in human dignity and worth is a common bond at the core of both religion and atheistic humanism. Human dignity and worth should inform our sexual activities, and prevent us from using others as sexual entertainment machines. This is at the core of attitudes towards sexuality: how we view other people. Are people of sacred value, or just objects we use to gratify ourselves? That is a central question.
Those who are religious will follow the dictates of their religion, few questions asked (usually). Those who do not follow a religion ought to consider how their views on human sexuality fit into their overall world view. Perhaps religion has some useful perspectives to offer as regards human sexuality, derived from a base of belief in human self-worth. Atheists ought to consider whether certain forms of sexual restraint lead to greater joy, because of the positive philosophy underlying such restraint. Pleasure is nice, but there are other gifts to our souls that restraint may bring.
Why does religion appeal to our selfishness? Why must eternal life be the reward for following Jesus? Why not serve God and then perish?
What is “eternity” anyway? We cannot conceive an infinity of time. “Eternal life” means that we will never face the moment when we know we will die. This moment is what we fear, not death itself.
May I suggest a workaround to your fear of death? When that moment is presented to you, fantasize about something else. Imagine you are in a much better place and time. Take your mind off the present. If you can do this, you no longer need fear death. (If you do not have the imaginative powers to fantasize, then devote your life to developing such powers).
The only reason to seek immortality is because one is confused about death, which means one is confused about life. Every day we lose consciousness when we sleep, which does not terrify us. We believe we will wake up again. In essence, we believe in our own resurrection. This belief separates sleep from death. It is a fine line.
Is eternal life really such a desirable thing? Won’t you get incredibly bored? You will repeat the same pattern in your life millions, billions, trillions of times (and more). Isn’t it better to lead a rewarding life and then gracefully (and hopefully painlessly) check out? Worried about facing death? See the above workaround.
Christians believe in “heaven forever”, meaning a wonderful situation that persists. Can we really imagine this? The only way to avoid boredom is to periodically forget one’s past. Isn’t that the same as the “old” you dying and a “new” you taking it’s place? If you forget your past, your are effectively a different person. Therefore, you have effectively died because your old self is gone.
Embrace the transient nature of your life, which is in fact a wonderful gift.
Speaking For God?
This is something I question: speaking for God.
The tagline for ChristianMingle.com (a dating site) is: “Find God’s Match for You™” (note the trademark). The company acknowledges that tagline has caused controversy, but states “we do believe ChristianMingle is a tool God can and has used to bring people together.”
Is this an uplifting belief? Is this a belief that leads to our enrichment as people, to our betterment? Or is this a belief that is used to achieve a specific result?
Is this belief based on anything other than a desire to want it to be so?
Beware of such beliefs that imply an intimate knowledge of God. Insight into the Almighty is not why we believe. We believe so that we can allow ourselves to imagine a larger purpose to our lives. Yet, we must be humble in our beliefs because we recognize our limitations as human beings.
Beware of all beliefs that imply a knowledge of God, leading to a use of that knowledge to achieve specific results. That is using belief. Be suspicious of such use.
Then continue on your journey, believing your way forward, but remaining humble about the knowledge of where you will be.
Zero Dark Thirty Plus Infinity
The film Zero Dark Thirty presents a stark view of our world circa 2013: two dominant cultures locked in a titanic struggle to the death.
One alluring feature of atheism is resolution of that struggle: if we could only abandon religion and faith, we would immediately diffuse these conflicts and the world would be a step closer to peace.
I offer another perspective. The faith that is aligned with Vahhd is the faith that will endure. Vahhd is the rising of the Sun every morning and its setting every night. Vahhd is the flow of oceans and the passage of stars at night. Vahhd is natural law.
Every day we make choices that bring us in alignment with Vahhd or farther from it. We can humbly accept Vahhd or resist it.
The end of faith is not the long-term goal. Rather, embrace a faith that is aligned with Vahhd.
Is Atheism Needed?
The physicist Richard Feynman famously said “we don’t need God.” When one is trying to explain the results of scientific experiments, that is an appropriate perspective.
I would put things another way: “We don’t need Atheism.” Do we really need to assume there is no God? With atheism, we are assuming that we know all there is to know about the creation of the universe and our place in it. Do we?
Why must we “rush to atheism”? What purpose does that serve? I know there will be many who defend atheism based on the lack of evidence for God. In my view, that defense is a profound misunderstanding. Even in science, one starts with a hypothesis, which is an educated guess. Before the hypothesis is verified, there is not sufficient evidence to believe the hypothesis is true. Science itself must venture beyond the known facts to make progress.
The objective of the atheist is to remove God from consideration. Why do that?