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Tag: Morality

Then and Now: The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue

kate upton 2017 swimsuit issue cover
Kate Upton, 2017 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Cover Model. (See Upton interview here)

Warning! PG-13, slightly adult conversation ahead!

I have on and off over the years subscribed to Sports Illustrated (SI). Published weekly, SI features stories about athletes and sports leagues. One issue every year is devoted, not to sports, but to the wonders of the female body. The Swimsuit Issue, as it is called, is chocked full of photographs of bathing suit-wearing models. SI chooses exotic locations for the photoshoots. The photographer part of me lusts over what can only be described as a dream gig — splendid locations and beautiful women. What’s not to like, right?

Over time, the bathing suits have become skimpier, reflecting our society’s increasing comfortableness with nudity. Every year, Evangelical groups express their outrage over the Swimsuit Issue, and every year countless Baptist preachers rush to the mailbox so they can preserve their SI copy before their wives get a hold of it. But, of course, Evangelical morality police are not the only people who get a self-righteous hard-on over the Swimsuit Issue. So do Catholic groups such as Catholic Youth Apostolate (link no longer active):

That takes us to the other half of your question, one of swimsuit models on magazines. Again, the real question here is one of intent. Swimsuit catalogs exist to sell swimwear for women. One could safely say that these kinds of images should be harmless to someone striving to live chastity [sic]. The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue (we use this example because the SI Swimsuit Issue is the highest grossing, most widely distributed issue of their magazine every year… interesting, for a magazine that is supposed to be supporting a culture of sports fandom) exists to sell supermodels to men. No one purchases that particular issue of SI in order to buy a new swimsuit for his wife. The women in those magazines are styled and posed in such a way that could easily lead anyone viewing them to lust – they’re often topless, sometimes naked; posed not to show off the swimwear, but their bodies.

One might say, ‘But I’m just admiring their beauty, what’s wrong with that?’ The problem lies in JPII’s quote above – you can’t admire their full beauty as a human person, because you don’t know them. All you have to admire is their physical form, separate from their heart, mind, and soul, so it’s impossible not to objectify them. Furthermore, the women in those magazines don’t express the wide variety of God’s beauty in all men and women – all the women in those magazines are roughly the same size and shape, a cultural standard of ‘beauty’ that simply means ‘sexy’ and is impossible for the average woman to achieve. Beauty is much broader than the images displayed in magazines. It’s not that these images show too much, but too little.

Does this mean that if you happen to catch a glimpse of the cover of the SI Swimsuit Issue in the check-out line at the grocery store, you have sinned? Probably not. But in order to grow in the virtue of chastity, it would be wise to not pick it up and flip through the pages. In as little as two-tenths of a second, an image can be emblazoned in one’s memory for years. And Jesus would rather you not risk it, since he said that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Mt 5:28). Again, make no provisions for the flesh…

This could just as easily of been written by an Evangelical preacher.

Back in my Evangelical preacher days, I would watch for the Swimsuit Issue to be delivered so I could throw it in the trash before one of my teenage sons or I was led into horrible sexual sin. One particular year, the magazine never arrived. Hmm, I thought at the time. I wonder what happened to it? Months later, while working on a vanity light in our master bathroom, I found the missing issue hidden above the cabinet. How did this magazine get here? I wondered. Come to find out, one of my sons had intercepted the magazine and hidden it. I made sure my mag-stealing son knew that he had sinned against God, and then I tore the magazine up and threw it away. Today, we heartily laugh about this story, but at the time, absconding with the magazine was viewed as a serious act of disobedience to God. I felt it my duty to ensure that my sons were not exposed to pornography, be it Playboy, Hustler, or the SI Swimsuit Issue.

Fast forward to 2017. The SI Swimsuit Issue arrived in our mailbox. I spent 20 minutes or so looking at the magazine while we were driving to Defiance for our granddaughter’s basketball game. I didn’t have lustful thoughts or feel the need to masturbate or engage in sexual intercourse. Shouldn’t I have been filled with lasciviousness as I dared to gaze upon the exquisite bodies of the fairer sex?  What’s changed between now and twenty years ago? Gone is the fear and guilt caused by the teachings of Evangelical Christianity about sin — especially sexual sin. As many former Evangelicals will attest, once the fear and guilt are no longer a part of the equation, things once considered “sin” can be enjoyed (or not, depending on one’s tastes and desires) without feeling like the reader just committed a heinous crime. Now that God, the Bible, and Evangelical moralizers no longer have my attention, I am free to be a normal, healthy heterosexual man. What is most interesting is that, once something is no longer taboo, it often loses its power and draw.

I will leave it to Evangelical men to guiltily shuffle into the darkness with a flashlight to look at their copy of the Swimsuit Issue. I no longer need to deny myself pleasures, wants, and desires. I know that the Swimsuit Issue is not everyone’s cup of tea. Each to his own, right? No one is forced to look at the magazine. People are free to subscribe, not subscribe, or cancel their subscription over what they believe is Sports Illustrated’s promotion of “soft porn.”

leyna bloom
Leyna Bloom, 2021 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Cover Model

2021 brings us an SI Swimsuit issue featuring a Transgender woman. Evangelical culture warriors are losing their collective shit over this. OMG, how dare Sports Illustrated portray a transgender person as “normal.” In their minds, this is just another sign of the collapse of Western Civilization, a sign of the imminent return of Jesus. Perhaps, SI should do a Women of Faith swimsuit issue. Would that make Evangelicals happy? Finally, “modestly” dressed women to lust over. Or maybe they should do a Gay Men of Faith swimsuit issue for all the repressed gays in Evangelical churches. Here’s what I know. Preachers Bobs all across America will buy the latest SI swimsuit issue so they can gather “information” for next Sunday’s sermon on the LGBTQ people. And with only God and Satan listening in, these preachers will lustfully say themselves, “I wonder if she still has a dick”?

Did you, or your father, back in your Evangelical days, subscribe to Sports Illustrated?  How was the Swimsuit Issue “problem” handled? Did your pastors preach sermons about the Swimsuit Issue? Do you know of anyone who committed adultery or fornication after perusing its pages? Do you know of anyone who, after viewing the scantily clad models, turned to pornography? (You know, the Swimsuit Issue acting as a gateway drug of sorts.) Please leave your thoughts in the comment section.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Is Incest a Sin?

cain and abel wives

Most Evangelicals believe that the earth was created 6,023 years ago, and the first two human beings on the planet were Adam and Eve.

Adam and Eve had two sons, Cain and Abel. It is assumed that Adam and Eve also had daughters who are not mentioned in the Bible. The reason this is assumed is that Cain and Abel had wives and children. The question then that must be asked is this: where did Cain and Abel‘s wives come from? Since there were no people on earth before Adam and Eve, the only answer is that Cain and Abel‘s wives were their sisters.

The Bible is clear: incest is a sin. If God is a moral being, absolute perfection, explain why he used incest to propagate the human race. Doesn’t this mean that God broke his own moral commandments? If God is against homosexuality, fornication, and adultery — sins which lead to eternal damnation and Hell — as Evangelicals say he is, why would God ever condone or use incest as a means to advance his purpose and plan?

When Evangelicals are asked about why God used incest to propagate the human race, they typically give one of three answers:

  • Mystery — we just don’t know.
  • God’s ways are not our ways, and God‘s thoughts are not our thoughts.
  • God used incest for a time, and once the human race was growing, he banned incest, calling it a grievous sin (only to allow it again after the Flood for a time with Noah’s family).
  • God had not yet given the command against incest (or rape, adultery, fornication, bestiality, etc).

Answering the question, “why is incest wrong?” Christian Fundamentalist “Dr.” David Tee (known in real life as David Thiessen) wrote:

Because God decided to make it wrong at the right time when genetic deformities will arise and ruin his creation. This may seem like a flippant answer but it is not. God was protecting his creation from the ills that come from inbreeding.

To illustrate this sexual harassment was recently made illegal but all those who practiced sexual harassment prior to that event did nothing legally wrong. You cannot judge or condemn people (or God) based upon actions after the fact. In other words, the people who did sexual harassment when it was legal, did not commit illegal or wrongful acts. They are still innocent people even though eventually the act was declared illegal.

Tee states, “this may seem like a flippant answer.” Ya, think? Either incest is immoral, or it’s not. Either God is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent or he’s not. Supposedly, God is sovereign. He knows everything from beginning to end. If this is so, wouldn’t have God known that there would be genetic birth defects? Couldn’t God have manipulated human DNA to eliminate this problem? Or better yet, couldn’t he have created numerous families, each with unique DNA? Instead, the moral architect of the universe used behavior he says is sinful to propagate the human race.

When you believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, and infallible word of God, such questions pose all sorts of problems for you. When you believe the Bible should be read literally, and that the history and science found within its pages are true, you are forced to defend incest and all sorts of immoral behavior. When you believe God’s moral law is absolute, incest committed by Cain and Abel proves to be an insurmountable problem.

I was an Evangelical pastor for 25 years. The incest question bothered me the entire time I spent in the ministry. I could not square incest in the book of Genesis with God‘s commands other places in the Bible. I concluded this was a mystery, and that someday, in Heaven, God would reveal his reasoning for permitting incest for a time. This is a common hermeneutic used by Evangelicals to not answer hard questions.

Are you a former Evangelical? How did you answer the incest question? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Atheists Lack Self-Awareness, Says Christian Man

peanut gallery

Recently, a Christian man by the name of Roger sent me the following email:

Interesting story. I think you’re right on that fundamentalism is idiotic. You’ve spelled that out quite well. Pastors are mostly egomaniacs as you rightly point out. But you could just ask them to find this pastor in the Bible (along with their whole church edifice and all its trappings) and you expose their empty hypocrisy. You don’t need to pick apart the Bible to destroy fundamentalism. They don’t even apply the Bible they claim to preach.

The problem you fail to see is that atheism is equally if not more stupid than fundamentalism. Why do these annoying atheists keep making moral claims? Why do they whine all day about how unjust hell is or how evil the biblical God is? Who are you, you evolved rodent, to make such an appeal to what is evil or unjust? Good and evil are just socially evolved constructs, right? So stop the whining. But atheists never stop whining. Atheists in my experience are actually highly moral people and constantly appeal to moral / ethical claims. The fact is the notion of morality and ethics is simply hard-wired into the human mind whether you like or it not. But atheists’ lack of self awareness about this is more annoying than fundamentalists telling me the earth is 6000 years old. It’s just theft. They’re stealing from the theists that they mock in this regard. They live in their own bubble, just like you accuse the fundamentalists of.

According to Roger, atheists are worse than Christian Fundamentalists. Atheists lack self-awareness, and have no morality or ethics of their own. Atheists are just stupid people who spend their waking hours whining about harmful Christian beliefs. Good to know, right?

I suspect that while Roger distances himself from Christian Fundamentalism, underneath his liberated self lies Fundamentalist beliefs. He sees himself as an “enlightened” Christian, yet it is likely that his core theological beliefs are not much different from those who proudly wear the Fundamentalist label.

Roger later sent me another email. Here’s what he had to say:

I wanted to reach out again and hope you didn’t take offense at the last message I sent. I read it again after I sent it and realized I probably came across as antagonistic and rude. Tone is absent in email. I was just laying out my general thoughts on fundamentalism / atheism, nothing personal about you or your story. Please forgive me if that was offensive to you and if so, please just disregard the message. I don’t mean you any disrespect or unkindness. I wish you the best on your journey.

warmly,
Roger

Take offense? Of course not. Roger is just another self-righteous, arrogant Christian asshole. I have received thousands of emails and comments from the Rogers of this world. I am of the opinion that people tend to say what they mean the first time. Roger meant for his email to be personal, and I took it as such. It is too late for me to “disregard” his message.

I wish Christians would “think” before emailing me. I wish they would ask themselves what they hope to accomplish by contacting me. I am NOT a prospect for Heaven. There’s nothing Roger could possibly say that I haven’t read/heard before or said in one of the 4,000+ sermons I preached. Wouldn’t it be better to refrain from hitting “send”? Yet, most of the Rogers of the world can’t seem to help themselves. Whatever their motivations, they are driven to set me straight, put in a word for Jesus, or evangelize.

Roger closed his last email with “warmly”. Yep. His email made me feel warm all over. As in wearing dark blue khakis and pissing your pants.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Bruce, If There is No God, Who Determines What is Moral?

objective morality

Recently, I received the follow comment:

Just curious on your thoughts about humans having, wanting and giving of love. Curious on where you believe it comes from.

Also, in your opinion, if there is no God or creator, who makes the morality rules?

Some believe that mankind is ultimately the moral law maker and or compass, in your opinion can anyone change that moral level as they see fit?

If the moral conduct is changed by the masses to whatever works for you, would that be counterproductive to society? Or do you feel mankind is evolving into learning and understanding what is helpful or not helpful to the whole? I hope all this makes sense. If not I will try to clarify.

I appreciate your time to respond.

Generally, I don’t engage is discussions about morality. Been there, done that, so to speak. I have been attacked by Christians and atheists alike over my views on morality. I have been accused of all sorts of “sins.” So, I am not inclined to write about morality, but today I have decided to do so, knowing that new readers have not read my views on this subject.

I am an atheist, so there is no God, no creator, no divine lawgiver. The laws and commands found in the Bible are of human origin. No Christian apologist has provided any evidence to suggest otherwise. Saying, THE BIBLE SAYS, is not evidence; it is an assumption rooted in presuppositionalism. That said, the Bible can be a helpful voice in discussions about morality, showing us how ancient societies viewed morality.

All morality is inherently subjective. There’s no such thing as absolute morality. Even in the Bible, we see morality, including God’s, changing over time. The idea that the Ten Commandments (which version?) or the Bible (which translation?) are an objective moral standard for all people for all time is absurd. History reveals ever-changing moral beliefs and standards. I came of age in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church. IFB churches and pastors believe in absolute morals, yet most IFB churches have moral standards today different from those they had in the 1960s and 1970s. This is especially so for Evangelicals. Yet, these moralizers, with great gusto, proclaim that they are keepers, defenders, and proclaimers of God’s moral standard.

Humans are social creatures, and as such, we need rules by which to govern ourselves. If morality is subjective, who decides what rules to use to govern our societies? We do. There’s no higher standard than “we the people.” If happiness and well-being are our goals — and they are (or should be) — then our morals should reflect those goals. Whether these morals can then be considered objective is a matter of debate, a debate, by the way, that I have no interest in. I know that humans generally agree that murder, rape, child sexual abuse, kidnapping, etc., are morally wrong. We don’t need a deity (or a church/preacher/religious text) to tell us these things are wrong. Why we know these things are wrong is an interesting discussion, one that has provoked much debate. Personally, I am convinced that our moral beliefs are shaped by biology, environment, culture, parental training, education, economic status, religion, and other factors. As you can see, it is far easier to appeal to God or the Bible — no thinking required. However, as stated above, I am an atheist (and a humanist and a socialist). God and the Bible have no place in my thinking.

Since morality is inherently subjective, our morals can and do change over time. And this is what troubles Fundamentalists. They live in a bubble where change is banned (even though a careful analysis shows transformational change taking place in Evangelical churches). Fundamentalists pine for the 1950s, a time when gays were deep in the closet, women were barefoot and pregnant, and Blacks knew their place. The foundation of the culture war is a yearning for what is perceived (falsely) as better times.

Progress demands we continue to examine our moral beliefs and adjust them accordingly. As long as Fundamentalists continue to clamor for, and achieve, a return to “old-fashioned” moral beliefs, progress is impeded. The current spate of anti-transgender, anti-abortion, and pro-creationism laws seems laughable to skeptics and rationalists, but state after state are passing these laws, moving us closer to the “good-old-days.” We must never, ever forget that theocracy (a system of morality) is their goal.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Bruce Gerencser