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« Are All Religions Equally Crazy? | Main | High School Atheist Ostracized by Town -- Atheist Community Steps Up »



Then they'll immediately flip to the equally absurd argument that we only became atheists so we could fornicate etc. without fear of God.

Robert B

From which, Nemo, we can make very clear moral arguments:

1) Why would a benevolent God forbid something that does no harm and much good? Indeed, why would he forbid it after making it so important to mental and physical health?

2) The argument that fear of God should motivate behavior is an implicit threat. When a human is obeyed because of threats and fear, we call that person a bully or a dictator. We consider it virtuous, or at least smart, to resist such people when possible. Why should the rules be different for God?

Neither of those go to the issue of whether God exists, either, but many people - me included - consider morality a very important issue in arguments about religion. And remember that even if you fail to convince your opponent in a debate, you might still convince the audience. Behind every vocal debater making posts, there are ten lurkers, just reading and thinking.

Greta Christina
Then they'll immediately flip to the equally absurd argument that we only became atheists so we could fornicate etc. without fear of God.

Nemo: They probably will. To which we can answer -- in addition to what Robert said -- that, if you trust the results of this study, religious restrictions on sex don't have any effect on sexual behavior. Atheists and believers do pretty much the exact same things sexually. Atheists just have a better time doing it.


I'm skeptical of this study. They only surveyed atheists, who knew what the survey was about, could easily guess that this was the expected result, and had a personal interest in this being true.

Heck, if this is the study I think it is, then I took it, myself, online. I didn't think much of it then, either.


Some of the results are probably reliable enough even with the huge demographic skew, but I think some -- particularly the statistic that people's sexual behavior is the same whether they're religious or not -- are pretty suspect. People who are serious about following their religion's sexual mores are highly unlikely to have even heard of the study, let alone responded to it.

I don't doubt that there's a high percentage of religious people who, as this study suggests, do all the things non-religious people do but feel guilty about it. But I suspect that a survey with more even representation would reflect some overall difference in sexual activity, because of the not-insignificant number of people who do abstain where their religion tells them to abstain.

I participated in this survey, and I liked doing it and like the results, but the more loudly it gets proclaimed the more uncomfortable I get with the sampling problems.

Margo K.

I remember seeing a one-man show. He was obviously quite *ahem* active in his local gay male scene, yet still regarded himself as Catholic. He said he would confess every week that his sins were 'gay sex, gay sex, gay sex' and the priest would assign him to say 'hail Mary' so many times, and eventually he wondered if he could just do the 'hail Mary' pre-emptively.

I found this genuinely puzzling. If he was a true believer in Catholicism, why was he committing a "sinful" act so frequently, and if he thought gay sex was not immoral, then why did he believe anything else about Catholicism? I suppose he might believe and figured gay sex was worth going to hell... but I suspect this is probably just an illustration of human irrationality.

Greta Christina

Lynet and Ginny: Yes, there are sampling problems, which the researchers themselves acknowledge. And this should be the beginning of this research, not the end of it. But I'm not that concerned about the possible inaccuracies you point to. Here's why.

Lynet: Yes, atheists might be inclined to give religion (and religious sex) a bad rap. But there was a great variety in how former believers in different religions answered the questions. If the answers just reflected a knee-jerk atheist antipathy to religion... why would that be? Why would former Mormons, former Catholics, former Muslims, former Jews, etc. respond so differently?

And Ginny: The results gathered from this study about the sexual behavior of religious believers are consistent with the results of lots of other research about human sexual behavior. So there's no real reason to think it's skewed (at least, not any more than any of the other research). Also, you're assuming that current atheists weren't serious about their religion when they were believers... and I don't think there's any reason to think that's true.

Robert B

I thought the differences between different religions were really interesting, too. Although I don't know representatives of all the religions from the survey, I've heard Catholic and Jewish acquaintances make jokes about how much guilt there was in their respective faiths/cultures. I was surprised to see them show up at the middle and bottom of this ranking. Shows how little I know, maybe - I was raised vaguely Protestant, and I guess I don't know much about what it's like to really be steeped in "my own" religion, let alone any others.

And also, is this an answer (one answer, the beginning of finding one answer) to the question, are all religions equally crazy? Or maybe, equally unhealthy?

Greta Christina
And also, is this an answer (one answer, the beginning of finding one answer) to the question, are all religions equally crazy? Or maybe, equally unhealthy

Robert: That's a really good point. I hadn't thought of those two pieces being connected in that way... but maybe they are. If it's true that some religions have a worse effect on people's sex lives and sexual mindsets, and make them more out of touch with the reality of human sexuality... maybe some religions have a worse effect on people's lives and mindsets generally, and make them more out of touch with all sorts of realities. Interesting. I'll have to think about that one.


I'm disappointed that they counted Judaism as a monolithic bloc. I would expect vastly different results from Orthodox Jews compared to Reform or even Conservative Jews.


As a lifelong atheist, I can honestly say the only time I've ever felt guilty about sex was when I accidentally kicked a guy in the head.


Great piece Greta. I agree there are some methodological problems with the study, but overall it seems reliable enough to draw conclusions from. It at least applies to me. I see sex as something very positive in my life. I have a loving partner and we really get a long great in bed. I never ever feel guilty about having sex. It's something personal, I'm not hurting anybody, it's healthy and fun. No problems!
This article reminded me of a line in a bloodhound gang song:
You and me baby we ain't nothin' but mammals / So let's do it like they do on the Discovery Channel. :p


Rainy: that song is great!

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