Evangelicals and Their Obsession With Sexual Lust

lust

Evangelicals have a huge problem with what they call sexual lust. Countless sermons, books, and website articles are devoted to helping Christians overcome lust. Rarely, if ever, do Evangelicals ask WHY they have a lust problem. Why do men and women filled with the Holy Spirit need to be constantly reminded of their propensity to lust? With God living inside of you (there’s a joke waiting to be told), I would think that victory over lust or any other sin would be but a thought or prayer away. If God himself can’t keep Evangelicals from sexually desiring other people to whom they are not married, what hope is there for the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world?

Perhaps, the real issue is that Evangelicals mislabel and misunderstand sexual lust. Thanks to Jesus to telling his followers in Matthew 5:27,28: Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart, Evangelicals think that if they look at a man or woman and desire them then they have committed adultery in their hearts. Is it any wonder that some Evangelicals, upon realizing they have committed adultery in their hearts, decide to physically have sex with whomever they are “lusting” after? If you are going to think it, you might as well do it.

What is lust, anyway? A simple definition is this: having a craving, appetite, or great desire for. Based on this definition, all humans lust, and there is nothing inherently wrong with sexually lusting after a man or a woman. What complicates the matter for Evangelicals is that they are duty-bound to live according to the laws, commands, precepts, and teachings of the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. The Bible, then, and not an English dictionary, defines what lust is. The inconsistent, arbitrary, contradictory moral code found in the Bible becomes the standard by which the triune God demands people live — in theory anyway. As any observer of Evangelicalism knows, Evangelicals don’t walk what they talk. Here they are, filled with the Holy Spirit and holding in their hands God’s blueprint for living, yet they fail miserably at being different from the big, bad “world.” Why is that?

The first problem is that Evangelicals view themselves as sinners; weak, powerless, helpless people, who, without the saving grace of Jesus, would be given over to their sinful desires. Evangelicals believe humans are inherently broken and need fixing; and only God, through the atoning work of Jesus, can repair them; and this fixing is an hour-by-hour, day-by-day process. Sin is always at the door, threatening to destroy their lives, Evangelicals think. Powerless, they cry out to Jesus for help, and in his good time, if at all, Jesus supposedly rides in on his white horse and delivers them from their sins. And if Jesus doesn’t arrive in time and Christians fall or run into sin? Forgiveness and a clean slate are but a prayer away: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, the Bible says in 1 John 1:9. Thus, for Evangelicals, there’s no reason for them to own their behaviors and be accountable for their actions.

colossians 3:5

The second problem comes when you join the Evangelical concept of sin and inherent helplessness with strict adherence to what’s written in the Bible. Instead of understanding that it is normal and healthy to sexually desire people, Evangelicals label their desires “sexual sins” such as adultery or fornication. Worse yet, even thinking about these desires, according to Jesus, is adultery. Imagine living in a world where the very thought of another person’s sexual desirability is considered heinous behavior worthy of eternal torment in the Lake of Fire. Is it any wonder Evangelical men and women go through life laden with guilt and fear? Is it any wonder so many Christians act out on their desires, often crossing the line from normal human behavior to criminality? One need only to follow the Black Collar Crime series to see that Evangelicals have a huge problem with sexual sin — especially sex with minors or, as in the case of pastors, people with whom they have professional relationships. A pastor having consensual sex with someone other than his wife violates the Evangelical God’s moral code, but outside of Christianity such behavior, at worst, leads to divorce. Consensual sex between unmarrieds is normal, healthy, and expected, but, for Evangelicals, such behavior is called fornication – an accursed sin worthy of eternal damnation. Masturbation and viewing pornography are also considered serious sins by most Evangelicals.

The focus should be on sexual behaviors that harm others. If there is no harm to others, and all parties are adults who consent to the sexual behavior, there should be no condemnation of the sexual behavior. Extramarital sex is generally considered bad behavior, but a married couple could have an understanding, making what Evangelicals consider adulterous normal. The rules I live by are quite simple:

  • I made a commitment to my wife forty years ago when I stood at the church altar and said that she would be my one and only. Polly and I, on that day, entered into a contractual relationship governing our sexual behavior. I live by that commitment. Do I desire other women? Do I find other women attractive? Do I even have thoughts about having sex with them? Yep. I am a normal, healthy human being. But, I don’t act on these desires. Why? I pledged my troth to wife, and I plan on keeping that vow.
  • Whatever people do sexually behind closed doors, as long as it is consensual, is none of my business. I don’t understand why some people enjoy BDSM, but I don’t have to understand it to find it acceptable human behavior. Each to his own as long as the parties involved freely consent.

Simply put, I mind my own business.

Evangelicals, on the other hand, are plagued with all sorts of rules governing their sex lives. Worse yet, these rules have differing interpretations depending on whom their pastor is, where they attend church, and what sect their church belongs to. When Evangelical men and women see someone to whom they are sexually attracted , they immediately feel guilty and worry about committing adultery in their hearts. Instead of seeing such behavior as normal and healthy, Evangelicals fear God’s judgment if they fail to avert their eyes and repent of their inordinate desire.

Yesterday, an Evangelical psychologist by the name of Douglas Weiss barfed up a post titled 10 Powerful Tips to Stay Lust-Free. The article was pretty much standard Fundamentalist fare: pray, read the Bible, memorize Scripture, and keep a journal of your lustful behavior. Weiss did, to his credit, speak of Evangelicals owning and changing their behavior. These points seemed quite humanistic, so I do wonder how Weiss squares personal accountability with what the Bible says about sin and human helplessness without God.

I did find tip number eight quite humorous:

Simply put a rubber band around your wrist and when you start to lust, snap it hard.

Currently, you are giving your brain positive reinforcement when you lust. You escape reality, you feel desired, you fantasize and sometimes even receive a chemical reaction in your brain from the risk and excitement you feel. When you positively reinforce your brain, it will heighten your desire to repeat that behavior.

The rubber-band technique creates a negative reinforcement for lust and sends your brain the message: I don’t want to do this anymore.

Of course, Weiss is giving advice for combating a behavior — lust — that only exists in the minds of Evangelicals. I see a theological contradiction with Weiss’s advice. If Evangelicals are to snap the rubber band when they start to lust, doesn’t that mean they have already sinned? Isn’t lust sinful, regardless of whether the Christian is at the start, middle, or end of the lusting process? Shouldn’t the lustful Christian immediately stop sinning, drop on his knee, and give God a blo- uh I mean pray for forgiveness?

Imagine, for a moment, Pastor Joe sitting at his office desk studying for Sunday’s sermon. Pastor J, as his followers love to call him, is planning on preaching a ten-point sermon titled How to Live a Lust-Free Life. J-Man, as church teens fondly call him, clicks on Firefox, and once it loads he opens an incognito window. Pastor Joe wants his study materials to be between him and God, and by using an incognito window, he leaves behind no trace of what websites he has visited. Pastor Joe navigates to youporn.com, telling himself, what better way to understand lust than “studying” the content of porn sites. As the tenth photo loads, Pastor Joe remembers he is wearing a Lust-Free Life Rubber Band®. He starts snapping the band repeatedly, thinking that the pain from having a rubber band snapped on his arm will cause him to turn from his computer screen. Alas, it does not. Soon, Pastor Joe is overwhelmed by what he has seen. I’m lusting, he cries, but no amount of self-awareness — or rubber bands — keeps Pastor Joe from masturbating. Soon orgasm brings release, and with release comes an overwhelming sense of religiously driven guilt. Oh Lord, I am so sorry for my sin. Please forgive me! Jesus, of course, forgives Pastor Joe, just as he has every other time. Or so we are told, anyway. Pastor Joe is forgiven by God because he says he is forgiven. In fact, every time Pastor Joe “sins” God forgives him. A weak, helpless man I am, says Pastor Joe. Deliver me from my lust, Jesus! What a miserable existence, but the fictional story I’ve told here happens countless times a day behind closed doors. And it will continue to happen until Evangelicals realize that their religion is the problem. Their belief system has turned them into pathetic weaklings who believe they have no control over their emotions or sexuality.

Evangelicals don’t need rubber bands. Does anyone really believe that snapping yourself with a rubber band is going to keep you from acting on your sexual desires? This is absurd. The only thing that controls your sexual desires is YOU. Not God, not Jesus, and certainly not a Lust-Free Life Rubber Band®. What’s required here is personal responsibility and accountability. Determine what is good and bad sexual behavior and act accordingly. The Bible, with its sexually repressive teachings, is not the answer, and neither are any of Weiss’s tips for living a lust-free life.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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45 Comments

  1. GeoffT

    Lust is simply the result of evolution, and its one goal, the built in need to reproduce. If we succeeded in eliminating lust for those with whom, morally, we should not have sex, then it would have the effect of doing it also for those with whom we may have sex, typically one’s partner or spouse. In any event, I rather like the fact that at 65 I can still admire a pretty girl, knowing that it will never go further (just as I see a young girl, she sees an old man, and I don’t want to add ‘dirty’ to the thought).

    Evangelicals, and other creeds, that obsess with sexuality, are no different to the Muslims who insist that ‘their’ women be covered head to toe lest they arouse feelings of lust in others.

    Reply
    1. Joel

      Better not admire young (or otherwise) women at work, or you risk being slapped with harrassment and fired.

      Reply
      1. J.D. Matthews

        If you don’t know the difference between admiration and harassment, I don’t know what else to tell you, besides “you’re doing it wrong.”

        Reply
        1. Joel

          Just thinking about the recent online training module on harassment they made everyone at my job take. It talked about when the way you look at someone makes them feel uncomfortable and you don’t stop when asked.

          Reply
  2. ObstacleChick

    At the core of fundamentalist evangelical Christianity is the concept that to be human is to be flawed, evil, broken. So is it any wonder that the biological urges that are necessary for the reproduction of more humans would be viewed as anything other than flawed, evil, broken as well?

    What a sad way to live life, constantly battling oneself. Sex os only a problem if used to harm others

    Reply
  3. Brian

    I’ve run out of rubber bands and my wrist stings constantly, Why is there no law punishing the wearing of yoga pants! We have lost our way! And now the the Hindus or Satanists have opened a place in the middle of town called Hot Yoga…right in the middle of town I say!
    Goodness gracious me.

    Reply
  4. Becky Wiren

    I can imagine that someone who practices snapping themselves with a rubber band over “forbidden” thoughts will soon end up creating a learned response…to get turned on by a snapped rubber band.

    Reply
  5. Mark

    The rubber band on the wrist thing didn’t work. I put it somewhere else. That works a lot better, but it hurts a hell of a lot more and there are quite a few places I can’t go anymore.

    Reply
  6. Justine Valinotti

    Snapping your wrist with a rubber band? Isn’t that a kind of autoerotic BDSM?

    Sometimes I think Christianity and biology are mutually exclusive.

    Reply
  7. Stephanie

    Finally going to a therapist about anxiety stuff, stuff that I have dealt with most of my life that I can remember. She was interested in where a lot of my critical, negative thoughts come from and we talked a lot about the church I grew up in. Guess I never consciously connected the whole ‘god of judgment’ ‘god is always watching’ with the negative stuff I hear in my head now. The stuff you teach your kids matters.

    Reply
  8. Justine Valinotti

    William Blake put it best in his “Songs of Experience”:

    Prisons are built from stones of law
    Brothels from bricks of religion.

    Reply
  9. LadySunami

    As an asexual I find religious texts and sermons about avoiding lust to be bizarre affairs.
    (For anyone who doesn’t know what asexuality is, it is essentially the opposite of bisexuality. I feel as much attraction towards any given person as an entirely straight man feels towards any other man, which is to say none at all).

    Like Bruce, I too must wonder how the evangelical god, if he exists, can be so utterly ineffective when it comes to lust prevention. He did a fine job of preventing it in my case, and according to the fundamentalists running ex-gay ministries he’s already in the business of altering sexualities, so surely making all his followers sexually indifferent towards everyone who isn’t the partner he specifically chose for them would be an incredibly easy task.

    I’d also love to know why the typical evangelical response to my asexuality is pity and/or the insistence I get married and then try this or that libido enhancing drug as soon as possible. (Never mind any of my attempts to explain that enhancing my libido will no more make me attracted to men then enhancing a lesbian’s libido would). At least Catholics just assume my vocation is single life.

    Reply
  10. John

    Surprising to hear such misplaced thinking from someone who pastored for 30 years.

    What the bible is saying is that adultery (and every other sin) begins in the MIND. There’s many other passages akin to the one you mentioned, such as Jesus warning people to cut off your hand if it causes you to sin (meaning, cut away the things that tempt you) or Paul warning Christians to make every thought obedient. The reason is because evil doing begins in the thoughts. Perhaps feeling natural desire for someone or even coveting them isn’t a sin, but thinking about it leads to sin. Unless of course you’re arguing adultery isn’t wrong?

    I’m willing to bet most drug addicts never thought that ‘hmm I wonder what that drug is like’ would lead them to performing fellatio in bus stations to get the next hit of heroin, but it is what it is.

    Don’t be too quick to dispense with everything in the Bible. There is much wisdom in it.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Every sect, every church, every pastor, every Evangelical appeals to the Bible as proof for their “truth.” What makes your “truth” right and all others wrong? You still didn’t address the focus of this post; that the Bible teaches salvation by works. In fact, I would argue that MacArthur and his Calvinist buddies all teach salvation by works.

      You want to judge the rightness/wrongness for theological beliefs based on your beliefs being right. Unfortunately, the Bible is a hopelessly contradictory book. Thus, all doctrinal beliefs are, in a sense, right.

      Sin is a religious construct, so I don’t use the word. Marriage is a contractual agreement between two people. It is their contract that determines what is and isn’t permitted sexually. As far as fornication is concerned, as long as the sexual activity is between consenting adults, it’s none of anyone’s business. Evangelicals seem to think they have a right to regulate human sexuality, all because an ancient religious texts says so. Is it any wonder that younger adults are leaving Evangelical churches in droves?

      Reply
  11. John

    As far as salvation by works goes, I think what you described as lordship salvation misses the point a little bit. What people like John Piper, John MacArthur, and Paul Washer are saying is that salvation is by faith alone but true saving faith results in a regenerated heart that longs to do the works of God. They aren’t saying that you must do Works to be saved but that truly saved people do works. There is a difference. I understand the problem you have with this, as it was confusing to me as well when I first heard of these guys. And I agree that it’s difficult to determine if one is truly saved or not without taking an honest look add how your life has borne fruit in the spiritual sense since becoming a Christian. That’s all these guys are saying.

    As far as sexuality goes, I suppose you’re totally fine with two consenting directly related adults having sex with each other then? Brother and sister? Grandfather and granddaughter? Father and son? where do you draw the line of consent? Can mentally well people consent better than mentally ill people? Does IQ have anything to do with it? Can a genius have sex with a mentally slow person and it still be morally okay? What about age? is it okay for an 18 year old to have sex to have sex with a 16 year old in Kentucky or a 14 year old in France but not in California? Does culture have anything to do with it? Can the tribe in New Guinea practice ritual pedophilic fellatio or is that wrong? The two consenting adults meme is pretty arbitrary.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      It’s not confusing to me at all. I was a Calvinist for a number of years. I ran in Paul Washer’s circle. What I am saying is that their theology is irrational, inconsistent, and as much as they preach grace, it’s all about works. I don’t misunderstand them….I know quite well what they believe. Washer’s preacher buddy in San Antonio, Tim Conway? I was his pastor for a time. These guys can preach grace all they want, buy they are every bit as legalistic and works oriented as the works-based sects they condemn.

      You know what I mean when I say consenting adults. And yes, cultural norms come into any discussion on human sexual activity.

      Reply
  12. John

    Is it inconsistent to say that at the moment of justification a person’s heart is changed and that unless that change is real, no fruit will show itself? It seems perfectly coherent to me. As far as the two consenting adults meme, say what you mean. Two consenting unrelated adults? Where did you get that standard from?

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      No Calvinist can ever know for sure that they are saved. Everything is conditional. They must endure to the end to be saved, and even then they might be false believers, non-elect, unloved by God, exposed only to his common grace, sentenced to hell by God from before the foundation of the world.

      All moral beliefs are subjective and culturally driven. I’ve said all I intend to say on the matter.

      By now, you have read the commenting rules. If you have something you need to say, please do so. I don’t argue theology with Evangelicals. Such arguments are a colossal waste of time. My posts clearly states my view on the subject at hand. It’s highly doubtful that you are going to say something I haven’t heard before. As Solomon said, there’s nothing new under the sun, and that includes arguments for any of the theological systems Evangelicals call “truth.”

      Remember, I’m an atheist, so any discussions about theology are purely academic. There is no God, end of story.

      Reply
    2. LadySunami

      So John, it seems you think Biblical morality solves all the issues you presented in a way consent based ethics does not… but does is really?

      I’ll be kind an only briefly mention that Abraham and Sarah were half siblings (Genesis 20:12) and that later passages changed half-sibling marriages to unacceptable (so much for the rules never changing, huh?), but what about all the forms of close family marriages the Bible never forbids at all? Do you accept men marrying their nieces? Men marrying their grandmothers? Men marrying their ex-wife’s children?
      (Fun fact, the rabbinic literature gets around the Sarah and Abraham contradiction by saying Sarah was actually Abraham’s niece, because marrying your niece is acceptable in Jewish law).

      As for the trouble with mental illness and IQ, doesn’t that apply equally to marriage matters? Do you consider it acceptable for a mentally ill person to consent to heterosexual marriage? Is it acceptable for someone with a high IQ and someone with a low IQ to marry? If you think said people can consent to a commitment as serious as marriage then surely they can consent to sex as well.

      Age is a very curious thing for you to bring up considering the Bible has nothing to say about how old a person must be to marry. Jewish law, allows people to marry as young as 13 if they are boys, 12 if they are girls. Do you think it’s acceptable for 18 or older man to marry a 12-year-old girl? What about a 14-year-old? A 16-year-old? If you can make decisions regarding marriage for these age differences without Biblical aid (as it provides none) what exactly prevents people from making such decisions regarding sex?

      Reply
  13. John

    “No Calvinist can ever know for sure that they are saved. ”

    Ok. So?

    “All moral beliefs are subjective and culturally driven.”

    Ok thanks for the comment. I assume you don’t believe in moral evil then?

    “By now, you have read the commenting rules……….”

    Ok fine, you’re the one who implied you wanted a comment on works salvation. I appreciate your blog nonetheless.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      I don’t generally use the word evil due to its religious baggage. There’s good and bad behavior, with good and bad determined by we the people through cultural norms, laws, etc. Certainly, some behaviors rise to a level most rational people would call evil (i.e. genocide, mass shootings, war, U.S. fire bombing of Germany, nuclear bombing of Japan, napalm use in Vietnam, the Holocaust, Rwanda massacre, war in Syria/Yemen, etc). Religious zealots tend to label as evil behaviors they consider sinful: same-sex marriage, homosexuality, abortion, Transgenderism, rooting for Michigan. I wouldn’t call any of these behaviors wrong (sinful) or evil; well, except rooting for Michigan. That’s the unpardonable sin.

      My moral framework is best summarized by the Humanist Manifesto:

      Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

      The lifestance of Humanism—guided by reason, inspired by compassion, and informed by experience—encourages us to live life well and fully. It evolved through the ages and continues to develop through the efforts of thoughtful people who recognize that values and ideals, however carefully wrought, are subject to change as our knowledge and understandings advance.

      This document is part of an ongoing effort to manifest in clear and positive terms the conceptual boundaries of Humanism, not what we must believe but a consensus of what we do believe. It is in this sense that we affirm the following:

      Knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis. Humanists find that science is the best method for determining this knowledge as well as for solving problems and developing beneficial technologies. We also recognize the value of new departures in thought, the arts, and inner experience—each subject to analysis by critical intelligence.

      Humans are an integral part of nature, the result of unguided evolutionary change. Humanists recognize nature as self-existing. We accept our life as all and enough, distinguishing things as they are from things as we might wish or imagine them to be. We welcome the challenges of the future, and are drawn to and undaunted by the yet to be known.

      Ethical values are derived from human need and interest as tested by experience. Humanists ground values in human welfare shaped by human circumstances, interests, and concerns and extended to the global ecosystem and beyond. We are committed to treating each person as having inherent worth and dignity, and to making informed choices in a context of freedom consonant with responsibility.

      Life’s fulfillment emerges from individual participation in the service of humane ideals. We aim for our fullest possible development and animate our lives with a deep sense of purpose, finding wonder and awe in the joys and beauties of human existence, its challenges and tragedies, and even in the inevitability and finality of death. Humanists rely on the rich heritage of human culture and the lifestance of Humanism to provide comfort in times of want and encouragement in times of plenty.

      Humans are social by nature and find meaning in relationships. Humanists long for and strive toward a world of mutual care and concern, free of cruelty and its consequences, where differences are resolved cooperatively without resorting to violence. The joining of individuality with interdependence enriches our lives, encourages us to enrich the lives of others, and inspires hope of attaining peace, justice, and opportunity for all.

      Working to benefit society maximizes individual happiness. Progressive cultures have worked to free humanity from the brutalities of mere survival and to reduce suffering, improve society, and develop global community. We seek to minimize the inequities of circumstance and ability, and we support a just distribution of nature’s resources and the fruits of human effort so that as many as possible can enjoy a good life.

      Humanists are concerned for the well being of all, are committed to diversity, and respect those of differing yet humane views. We work to uphold the equal enjoyment of human rights and civil liberties in an open, secular society and maintain it is a civic duty to participate in the democratic process and a planetary duty to protect nature’s integrity, diversity, and beauty in a secure, sustainable manner.

      Thus engaged in the flow of life, we aspire to this vision with the informed conviction that humanity has the ability to progress toward its highest ideals. The responsibility for our lives and the kind of world in which we live is ours and ours alone.

      Reply
  14. John

    The humanist manifesto just makes humans into God.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Humanists have no need of Gods. Instead, we embrace the world as it is. The only time humanists utter the word God is during sex.

      Reply
  15. John

    I have no need for humanism. The human race is despicable. Any moral code that venerates humans is the epitome of silliness.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Silliness? Have you ever seriously thought about the core beliefs of Evangelical Christianity? A virgin having a baby without ever having sex? A man killing himself and resurrecting himself? A man walking through walls? A man walking on water? A man teleporting out of a crowd without anyone seeing it? A man healing blindness with spit and mud? Shall I go on? It’s 2018. Humanism, not religion, is the way forward. Christianity has had 2,000 years to make its case. If the human race is despicable, who made them that way?

      Reply
    2. LadySunami

      Humanism doesn’t “venerate” humans. Might I suggest reading the Humanist Manifesto as quoted by Bruce once again?

      I also recommend thinking about the undue importance your religion places on humanity before disparaging other philosophies/ethics systems for focusing too much on them. After all, don’t you believe that God made the ENTIRE UNIVERSE, which is so much larger then our single planet the human mind can barely grasp it, just for the sake of our little planet? Don’t you believe that human beings were the pinnacle of all that creation, more important then the planet or vast universe around it, as we alone were made in God’s image? Is it not true that you, or at least many in your church, feel the suffering of animals and the decay found in nature were all the result of God punishing the two humans who first disobeyed him? Don’t you believe that God himself, the creator of EVERYTHING, decided he had to become a human for the purposes of achieving his ultimately plan, rather then doing literally anything else? Isn’t it true that you think the book of Revelation is prophetic and describes a future where God will destroy all his vast creation just so he can remake it specifically for his chosen humans?

      If anyone has a human-centric ego problem it’s not the people concerned with making functional moral systems by humans for humans… it’s the people who insist that creator of the universe has such an insane level of investment in our tiny portion of his creation that he continues to shape and reshape the rest of the universe around us.

      Reply
    3. Michael Mock, who's clearly in A Mood

      This seems very strange to me. Humanity is all we have to work with; humanism is just trying to take what we are, and make it the best that we can be. Yes, humanity is frequently despicable, but… religious beliefs don’t fix that. Not reliably, and far too often they reinforce it.

      If your morality venerates (or vilifies) humanity, it’s kind of missing the point. Humanity isn’t an ideal, nor is it a sin in itself. But encouraging people to be their best selves? To learn how to avoid hurting others, how to help others, how to have the understanding needed to make those distinctions? This is humanism. This is worthwhile. This is perfectly compatible with Christian beliefs, or with those of other religions.

      Reply
      1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

        Yep. Christian humanism has a long, storied history. Secular and Christian humanists have long worked together for the common good of the human race.

        https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_humanism

        Reply
  16. John

    I agree with some of that. I don’t think it says anywhere that God made the Earth only, or that the universe only contains humans. The key word is were in your statement. Humans were created in God’s image, and no where does it say only we were, but when we transgressed we fell from Grace. The suffering and decay of reality is do to the fact that we are separate from God post transgression. Not because he’s punishing us. The Bible says the hole of creation is longing for Redemption. I beg to differ with your assertion that the Bible venerates humans. The fact is, it’s the only theology on Earth that accurately describes us for the depraved beings that we are. Not only does it say that we require repentance from those imperfections, it says that we also require Redemption and forgiveness for them. Find something like that in humanism. Humanism doesn’t even get the problem right, let alone the solution.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      The problem, of course, is your presuppositions. You assume without evidence that the Christian God is the one true God (why your God, and not any of the other Gods). You assume that the Bible is an inspired, inerrant, infallible, supernaturally written/given religious text (why your religious text, and not any other religious text). You assume, then, from these presuppositions that humans are sinners and in need of redemption. Worse yet, you assume that Calvinism accurately reflects the soteriology of the Bible.

      You see your fellow humans as broken and in need of fixing. Humanists don’t see their fellow humans this way. Instead, we desire to see humans work together for the common good; making the world a better place to live; increasing health, prosperity, and happiness. All you see is a mass of despicable people who, unless they embrace your religious beliefs, are going to burn in hell. Talk about a shallow, empty, meaningless worldview.

      Have you read any of Bart Ehrman’s books? If not, I encourage you to do so. The Bible is not what you claim it is, and Dr. Ehrman does a masterful job at showing this in his books. Once you are disabused of the notion that the Bible is some sort of divine text that is meant to be the final answer, then you might be able to see things differently; and then, perhaps, we can have a meaningful discussion. Until then, you remain shut off from any other worldview but your own.

      I wish you well, John. This is your last comment.

      Bruce

      Reply
    2. LadySunami

      “I don’t think it says anywhere that God made the Earth only, or that the universe only contains humans.”

      Look at the story of Genesis. In the six days of creation, five were dedicated to creating and or populating the planet earth… while only one was used to create the the sun, moon and stars. If you believe this to be literally true, then God dedicated only 1/5th the time he spent making the earth on making THE ENTIRE REST OF THE UNIVERSE. That seems like a pretty obvious indication of priorities, now doesn’t it?

      “The suffering and decay of reality is do to the fact that we are separate from God post transgression.”

      Except the suffering and decay doesn’t just affect humans, if affects everything on planet earth. Why should it if humans are the ones that sinned, not the rest of the creatures on the planet? There is no reason humans couldn’t be the only mortal, decaying creatures in a world of immortals animals and otherwise without decay.
      God either actively decided to change the rest of the planet afterwards so non-human creatures would also suffer punishment due to human actions or he set up the planet to begin with such that human actions had the power to change reality itself. Either way, this is most definitely over inflation of human importance.

      “Humans were created in God’s image… but when we transgressed we fell from Grace.”

      Why exactly did God make humans such that it would end up this way? Usually Christians tell me it’s because God ‘gifted’ us with free will, but when I ask the same Christians if God has free they say he does. If God is an entity that has free will, but who supposedly chooses to never exercise that free will for evil, then why can’t humans have been made to be the same? Clearly free will and a nature that makes choosing to do evil a non option can both exist in one being, so what was stopping God from crafting human beings such that we also have free will but would never decide to use it for evil? (Heck, isn’t exactly the state Christians expect to be in once they enter Heaven?)
      If God lacked the knowledge of how to do this, he isn’t omniscient. If God lacked the ability to do this, he isn’t omnipotent. If God both knew how to do this and could do it, but chose not to, then all our suffering, depravity and imperfections are HIS responsibility. Making creatures specifically so that they will fail you and you can punish them for that failure is an absolutely horrific thing to do! It’s irrational, abusive, and downright cruel. If anyone in this scenario needs to repent and take responsibility for his actions, it’s God.

      Reply
  17. John

    The only thing I see in those questions is a lack of imagination. It’s Curious to me what a bland boring and substanceless existence human experience would be if everyone was an atheist. It seems a great many of you, in your demand for rigorous scientific rationalism, have lost your basic abilities for understanding subtext, poetry, metaphysics and / or art. I suppose nothing less can really be expected when the entirety of reality is reduced to Mindless machinations. Odd indeed.

    Reply
  18. John

    It’s really Akin to looking at the Sistine Chapel and saying “goodness gracious would you look at that crap, God doesn’t even exist!” or saying “this Handel fella has it all wrong, there’s no such thing as a messiah.” It’s infantile to be concerned about the surface truth or falsity of religious claims or religiously inspired ethics or metaphysics. It seems most atheists can’t squeeze themselves past that level 0 thinking. To me it seems mostly due to emotionally charged ideological desperation, but I’m not going to make blanket statements.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      No one does this, John, No one. I repeat, no one. Atheists/humanists see wonder and beauty all around them, all without God. I, for one, love Handel’s Messiah. I can listen to the music without believing in the existence of Jesus(as God/redeemer).

      Fundamentalist religion — and Evangelicalism is Fundamentalist — causes great harm in the world, and it for this reason people such as myself bother with critiquing, attacking, and exposing Christian Fundamentalism.

      You are not going to make blanket statement, yet you did. Nice passive-aggressive final touch.

      Reply
    2. LadySunami

      I suggest you take a look at the lovely art of those religions you don’t believe in, not just the ones you do. If you can see such beautiful works of art while concluding the people who made them were wrong about their religious beliefs, then what precisely stops atheists from doing the same but for ALL religious artwork, including that of Christians?

      I find the Ellora Caves to be among the most beautiful and impressive structures in existence, despite the fact I’m neither Hindu, Buddhist nor Jainist. While admiring the beauty of their ancient art, I also remain concerned about the “truths” of said religions and the negative impacts they have on those who believe in them (for example, the extremely toxic and troublesome Hindu caste system). Human being are more then capable of admiring someone’s art and actively criticizing and combating their religion/ideology at the same time. We’re not all Spanish conquistadors destroying the artwork and structures of anyone who doesn’t believe like we do.

      Reply
    3. GeoffT

      John, I’m as full on atheist as it’s possible to be. If god stood naked in front of me and danced a highland jingle I’d assume he was drunk, or an illusion.

      On the other hand, I’ve stood twice in the Sistine Chapel and marvelled at the art on show. It’s astonishing, but it must be remembered that it wasn’t the artist who was inspired by religious fervour, it was actually his benefactor, the person that commissioned the work (the Pope in effect), who set out the contents. Similarly with Handel’s Messiah, it is music of astonishing beauty, composed to order. Great music and great art depicting religious events do not render the events true, and nor is the brilliance of the artist diminished in any way. To fail to understand this is to fail to understand what it means to be human.

      Reply
  19. ObstacleChick

    John, I assume you don’t personally know any atheists if you assume that atheists have no imagination or appreciation for art. But it is not true that one must believe in deities and supernatural beings, or in stories that purport ideas that are unsupported by science, in order to appreciate beauty or to have creativity. I read fiction and mythology (Yes, I consider bible stories to be mythology) and consider the beauty of some of the stories. I appreciate the beauty in the universe much better now that I am not consumed with worrying about whether I am pleasing a deity.

    Reply
    1. LadySunami

      As the most fantasy obsessed atheist I know, I must agree! I absolutely adore fiction that takes place in fantasy worlds, especially when the magic and supernatural elements are unique and involve strong and cohesive worldbuilding. I’m starting to think it’s a big part of why I’m both so interested in and appalled by Evangelical theology actually (despite my own religious background being Catholicism). Their “worldbuilding” and the system of supernatural cause and effect within it is so shoddy and nonsensical I find it frustrating even from a storytellers perspective. The fact anyone considers it to be a factual description of reality is beyond my comprehension. As the Michael Mock rule states, it just doesn’t make sense!

      Reply
  20. Brian

    John has taken the abuse of religion hook, line and sinker. When he says that the human race is despicable, he is looking in the mirror and when God doesn’t answer his pr(e)yers, John knows it is because he doesn’t deserve basic respect from the boss.
    It is a sad reality, that we are so full of harm-done in our lives that we can actually feel disgust for all of humankind and call ourselves despicable. The codes of hatred laid out in the gawd book do a very good job on the Johns of the world.

    Reply
  21. John

    To respond to all the similar comments: I’m not saying that atheists cannot appreciate art or music etc. What I’m saying is that if you were to approach those things with the same rigorously rational and reductivist schema that you approach the Bible, you would conclude the same things about them that you do the Bible. Human beings are not strictly rational. There is a metaphysical or ‘spiritual’ side of us that responds to beautiful pieces of music, or art, or intimacy with other human beings that cannot simply be explained away by notes on a page, or color hues in certain stroke patterns, or chemical signals in brains. These things are real and visceral parts of human experience. The same thing happens when people read the Bible. So before saying “none of this is true” think about how you’re approaching it and what you are classifying as truth. The Bible isn’t making scientific claims for the most part, so why would you judge it all as if the only way to evaluate it is scientifically, or rationally?

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Are you saying, then, that the Bible is just like any other book; that it is not a supernatural text?

      I doubt that’s your position, so if the Bible is, instead, an inspired, inerrant, infallible book, and is truth, then it is proper and right to use rational, critical thinking skills to judge its content. When Evangelicals demand, as you did in several of your comments, that everyone accept the Bible as an infallible standard of truth and morality, then they can’t complain when critics pay attention to what the text says.

      Are you saying the Christian God didn’t create the universe? Are you saying Genesis 1-3 doesn’t accurately explain how the universe came into existence? I will assume, again, that this is NOT what you are saying. Thus, if Genesis 1-3 is scientifically and historically accurate, why shouldn’t we read the rest of the Bible the same away? I understand the various literary conventions that can and should be applied to certain passages of Scripure. But, according to Christian orthodoxy, the Bible is a historical narrative, starting with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to Jesus in the Gospels to the early church in Paul’s writings. Shouldn’t we take these texts as written?

      The issue here, John, is that you grossly misunderstand how many atheists read and understand the Bible. I’m a college trained ex-preacher. I understand the Bible inside and out. I spent thousands of hours studying the Bible and reading theological tomes. Did all that knowledge disappear the moment I deconverted? Or is the real issue that I refuse to play by the rules; that I no longer have a need to harmonize contradictory texts; that I no longer gloss over contradictions?

      If you want to read the Bible for your personal spiritual benefit, fine. But when you use it to make truth claims, as you did in several of your comments, you can expect people like me will push back. Personally, I don’t think the truth claims made by Evangelicals can be rationally defended. Sooner or later, every defense will appeal to faith, and once such an appeal is made, all rational discussion stops.

      I asked you in a previous comment whether you have read any of Bart Ehrman’s books?

      Per the commenting rules, you have one opportunity to say your piece. I’ve granted you some latitude, but it’s time for you to make your closing argument. I hope you understand. Hundreds and hundreds of Evangelicals have come before you. Every argument that can be made has been made over and over and over again. Since my goal is to help people who have doubts about Christianity or who have already left Christianity, I choose not to engage in protracted discussions with zealots. It’s a matter of keeping focused on what’s important.

      Reply
    2. GeoffT

      I’m sorry John, but I don’t think you are providing valid comparisons.

      When I listen to music or look at art I know that it is an entirely emotional, some would say spiritual, experience. Unless I’m studying them objectively, in the way that perhaps a music or art student sometimes has to do, there really isn’t any other way to do it. The bible is different. I don’t say that literature can’t be enjoyed as art form; after all, that’s exactly what happens when we read fiction, absorbing ourselves into a story we know is untrue.

      The bible can, in small parts, be read and appreciated this way, a point made often by Richard Dawkins. However, it’s ludicrous to claim that this is where the bible begins and ends. The bible is a mixed up mush of mythology, folklore, contrived ramblings, and sheer absurdity. It makes total sense if it is appreciated in this way, understood to be a concoction of attempts by its myriad writers to try and make sense of a seemingly baffling world, written over a period of over a thousand years. Looked at this way it can be seen as a sort of ‘art’ though not one I care for. It should not in any sense ever be taken literally, nor as even being inspiring, as mankind can make a much better job of understanding the world than the bible can ever hope.

      I’m not sure this leaves the bible with any purpose, other than just another historically interesting reflection of developing cultures.

      Reply
    3. LadySunami

      When you are looking at a beautiful piece of art, or listening to instrumental music, that art and music isn’t attempting to instruct you on how reality functions, telling you how to live your life, or informing you how you should be treating other people. People don’t listen to one of Lindsey Sterling’s violin compositions and then, based on what they heard, decide that men attracted to other men should suppress their sexuality at all costs or they will be doomed to suffer an eternity in hell. Now for those songs that actually *do* have words and convey messages with those words, you’ll find all sorts of criticism, including a great deal from religious sources!

      Think about every religious sermon or conversation you’ve ever heard that mentions rap music. Have you ever gone up to the preacher or conversing party and said “Hold on now! You’re talking about music here. Music is a visceral part of the human experience, so you shouldn’t be concerning yourself with what behaviors or attitudes the words are encouraging.” I sincerely doubt it.

      People don’t treat the Bible like it’s a book of poems whose only meaning lies in portrayals of beauty and emotion. They treat it like a science book, using it’s words as an excuse to ignore well established facts about the natural world. They treat it like a morality guide, allowing it to dictate what natural human behaviors should be supported or punished, regardless of how much harm said demands might cause. They treat it like it is inerrant and infallible, making it impossible to have any sort of discussion about its contents, or the conclusions drawn from said contents, because any criticism just becomes de facto proof that the person doing the criticizing isn’t trustworthy. If you want non-Christians to treat the Bible like a piece of art, then Christians need to start treating it that way first. Until then, we will keep applying logic and reason to the matter to show how the Bible falls short.

      Reply
  22. John

    >Are you saying, then, that the Bible is just like any other book; that it is not a supernatural text?

    That question is not answerable.I know most atheists think they have answered it, but they haven’t.

    >I doubt that’s your position, so if the Bible is, instead, an inspired, inerrant, infallible book, and is truth, then it is proper and right to use rational, critical thinking skills to judge its content.

    How isn’t this the fallacy of the excluded middle? It’s either total BS or it’s infallible, and inerrant? Why don’t you apply the same logic you use to defend the veracity and accuracy of scientific theories to a book like the Bible? The answer to this question is that you cannot do so, because the claims of morality and purpose and meaning within the Bible are not scientific claims. There is no gauge for accuracy, because there is no standard by which to judge it by. It sets itself as the standard. To verify it, you need an ultimate standard to apply it against, and you don’t have one.

    >When Evangelicals demand, as you did in several of your comments, that everyone accept the Bible as an infallible standard of truth and morality, then they can’t complain when critics pay attention to what the text says.

    I never claimed this. Even the Bible claims the opposite of this. It actually says no one can follow the law.

    >Are you saying the Christian God didn’t create the universe?

    You say this. Again, this question is not epistemologically answerable.

    >Are you saying Genesis 1-3 doesn’t accurately explain how the universe came into existence?

    It depends what you mean by accurate. It certainly doesn’t give specific detail about HOW God created the Universe.

    >I will assume, again, that this is NOT what you are saying. Thus, if Genesis 1-3 is scientifically and historically accurate, why shouldn’t we read the rest of the Bible the same away? I understand the various literary conventions that can and should be applied to certain passages of Scripure. But, according to Christian orthodoxy, the Bible is a historical narrative, starting with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to Jesus in the Gospels to the early church in Paul’s writings. Shouldn’t we take these texts as written?

    I dunno, should you take pieces of art which are complex with subtext and deep subtlety as mere collections of swipes of paint on a canvas?

    >The issue here, John, is that you grossly misunderstand how many atheists read and understand the Bible.

    I can read and understand musical notes on a page too, but I can’t hear the music when I do.

    >I’m a college trained ex-preacher. I understand the Bible inside and out. I spent thousands of hours studying the Bible and reading theological tomes. Did all that knowledge disappear the moment I deconverted? Or is the real issue that I refuse to play by the rules; that I no longer have a need to harmonize contradictory texts; that I no longer gloss over contradictions?

    >If you want to read the Bible for your personal spiritual benefit, fine. But when you use it to make truth claims, as you did in several of your comments, you can expect people like me will push back. Personally, I don’t think the truth claims made by Evangelicals can be rationally defended. Sooner or later, every defense will appeal to faith, and once such an appeal is made, all rational discussion stops.

    >I asked you in a previous comment whether you have read any of Bart Ehrman’s books?

    I have yes.

    >Per the commenting rules, you have one opportunity to say your piece. I’ve granted you some latitude, but it’s time for you to make your closing argument. I hope you understand. Hundreds and hundreds of Evangelicals have come before you. Every argument that can be made has been made over and over and over again. Since my goal is to help people who have doubts about Christianity or who have already left Christianity, I choose not to engage in protracted discussions with zealots. It’s a matter of keeping focused on what’s important.

    Ok sounds good. Thanks for the opportunity to converse with you and your blog followers for a short time.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Hey Bob, I finally flushed the rabbit out of the brush pile.

      Reply

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