Posts Tagged ‘Pope Benedict XVI’


The following is the bare-bones version of Chapter 10 in 24 Reasons to Abandon Christianity, which will be out in a little over year. I’ll add to it considerably over the next few months, but this’ll give you a good idea of where I’m going with it — I’ll basically be adding more documentation and illustrative passages and quotes.

For now, here ’tis:

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10. Christianity’s morbid preoccupation with sex

Since its inception, Christianity has had an exceptionally unhealthy fixation on sex, to the exclusion of almost everything else (except power, money, and the infliction of cruelty). This stems from the numerous “thou shalt nots” relating to sex, and the calumnies heaped upon it, in the Bible. To quote only a few of the many passages maligning sex and warning against it:

“”Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.” — I Peter 2:11

“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanliness, lasciviousness.” –Galatians 5:19

“For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” — Romans 8:6

The church fathers echoed these views:

“We Christians regard a stain upon our chastity as more dreadful than any punishment, or even death itself.” –Tertullian, Apologeticus

“The children of the flesh can never be compared to the glory of holy virginity.” — St. Augustine, On Holy Virginity

“Nothing so much casts down the mind of man from its citadel as do the blandishments of women, and that physical contact without which a wife cannot be possessed.” — St. Augustine, Soliloquies

“Nothing is so much to be shunned as sex relations.” –St. Augustine, Soliloquies

And lest we forget:

“It is time to cut down the forest of marriage with the ax of virginity.” –St. Jerome, Epistle 123

All of this prudishness and calumny stems from Christianity’s most basic scriptures, especially the Ten Commandments.

That the Ten Commandments (enumerated in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5) command keeping the sabbath, forbid taking the Lord’s name, and forbid coveting one’s neighbor’s wife, but do not even mention, let alone forbid, slavery, rape, incest, torture, or cruelty—all of which were abundantly common in the time the Commandments were written. This speaks volumes about their writers’ preoccupation with sex (and women as property), as well as the pettiness of the Judeo-Christian deity.

Over the centuries, Christian religious leaders have echoed and amplified the perverted morality espoused in the Ten Commandments and the rest of the Bible. To cite but two examples from relatively recent popes:

“When Christianity is rejected, marriage inevitably sinks into the slavery of man’s vile passions.” –Pope Leo XIII, Arcanum divinae sapientiae (1880)

“You cannot belong to Christ unless you crucify all self-indulgent passions and desires.” –Pope Benedict XVI (as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prior to ascending to the papacy), Pastoral Letter on the Care of Homosexual Persons (1986)

Today, judging from the pronouncements of many Christian leaders, one would think that morality consists solely of what one does (more precisely, doesn’t) in one’s bedroom. For a completely bonkers example of this, let’s turn to a prominent televangelist and former GOP presidential candidate who has posited that tolerance of homosexuality is the cause of hurricanes:

If you wanted to get America destroyed, if you were a malevolent, evil force and you said, “How can I turn God against America? What can I do to get God mad at the people of America to cause this great land to vomit out the people?” Well, I’d pick five things. I’d begin to have incest. I’d begin to commit adultery wherever possible, all over the country, and sexuality. I’d begin to have them offering up and killing their babies. I’d get them having homosexual relations, and then I’d have them having sex with animals.”

–Pat Robertson, quoted in The San Francisco Chronicle, September 7, 1986

The Catholic Church, though less flamboyant than Robertson, is the prime example of sex negativity, with its moral pronouncements rarely going beyond the matters of birth control and abortion, and with its moral emphasis seemingly entirely on those matters.

Also note that the official Catholic view of sex—that it’s for the purpose of procreation only—reduces human sexual relations to those of brood animals. Many of the Church fathers (and later popes) were quite explicit about this, with Augustine, in his work Conjugal Adultery, stating: “Intercourse with even a lawful wife is unlawful and wicked if the conception of offspring be prevented.”

Thus it’s no surprise that for centuries the Catholic Church has been the driving force behind efforts to prohibit access to birth control devices and information—to everyone, not just Catholics.

The Catholic Church, however, is far from alone in its sick obsession with sex. The evangelical hate campaign against gay people is probably the most prominent current manifestation of this perverse preoccupation. Even at this writing, condemnation of “sodomites” from church pulpits is still very common—with Christian clergymen wringing their hands as they piously proclaim that their words of hate have nothing to do with gay bashings and the murder of gays.

Christianity produces sexual misery

“[Planned Parenthood] is teaching kids to fornicate, teaching people to have adultery, every kind of bestiality, homosexuality, lesbianism — everything that the Bible condemns.” –Pat Robertson (12)

In addition to the misery produced by Christian intrusions into the sex lives of non-Christians, Christianity produces great misery among its own adherents through its insistence that sex, except the very narrow variety it sanctions, is evil, against God’s law. Christianity proscribes sex between unmarried people, sex outside of marriage, homosexual relations, bestiality, and even “impure” thoughts. Indulging in such things can and will, in the conventional Christian view, lead straight to hell.

(One indication of the Christian obsession with sex is the repeated mention of bestiality in medieval ecclesiastical writings. One 8th-century penitential [list of sins and punishments] quoted in A.A. Hadden’s Councils and Ecclesiastical Documents states: “If a cleric has fornicated with a quadruped let him do penance for, if he is a simple cleric, two years, if a deacon, three years, if a priest, seven years, if a bishop, ten years.” All this leads one to wonder just exactly how common this practice was in the medieval church.)

Given that human beings are by nature highly sexual beings, and that their urges very often do not fit into the only officially sanctioned Christian form of sexual relations (monogamous, heterosexual marriage), it’s inevitable that those who attempt to follow Christian “morals” in this area are often miserable, as their strongest urges run smack dab into the wall of religious belief. This is inevitable in Christian adolescents and unmarried young people in that the only “pure” way for them to behave is celibately—in the strict Christian view, even masturbation is prohibited. (Philip Roth well described the dilemma of the religiously/sexually repressed young in Portnoy’s Complaint as “being torn between desires that are repugnant to my conscience and a conscience repugnant to my desires.”) Thus the years of adolescence and young adulthood for many Christians are poisoned by “sinful” urges, unfulfilled longings, and intense guilt (after the urges become too much to bear and are acted upon).

Even after Christian young people receive a license from church and state to have sex, they often discover that the sexual release promised by marriage is not all that it’s cracked up to be. One gathers that in marriages between those who have followed Christian rules up until marriage—that is, no sex (and often no sex education) at all—sexual ineptitude and lack of fulfillment are all too common. Even when Christian married people do have good sexual relations, the problems do not end. Sexual attractions ebb and flow, and new attractions inevitably arise. In conventional Christian relationships, one is not allowed to act on these new attractions. One is often not even permitted to admit that such attractions exist. As Sten Linnander put it, “with traditional [Christian] morality, you have to choose between being unfaithful to yourself or to another.”

The dilemma is even worse for gay teens and young people in that Christianity never offers them release from their unrequited urges. They are simply condemned to lifelong celibacy. If they indulge their natural desires, they become “sodomites” subject not only to earthly persecution under religion-inspired laws, but to being roasted alive forever in the pit. Given the internalized homophobia Christian teachings inspire, not to mention the very real discrimination gay people face, it’s not surprising that a great many homosexually oriented Christians choose to live a lie and feign heterosexual marriage. In most cases, this leads to lifelong personal torture and gross unfairness to their spouses, who deserve someone who desires them sexually. But such internalized homophobia can have even more tragic results.

A prime example is Marshall Applewhite, “John Do,” the guru of the Heaven’s Gate religious cult, whose members committed mass suicide in 1997. Applewhite grew up in the South in a repressive Christian fundamentalist family. Horrified by his homosexual urges, he began to think of sexuality itself as evil, and eventually underwent castration to curb his sexual urges. Several of his followers took his anti-sexual teachings to heart and likewise underwent castration before, at Applewhite’s direction, killing themselves.

One strongly suspects that Applewhite, given his fundamentalist upbringing, was aware of and took to heart Christ’s words in Matthew 19:12: “For there are some eunuchs which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be some eunuchs which have made themselves for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.”

Finally, the astounding level of sexual hypocrisy displayed by Christian clergymen and politicians is mute testimony to Christianity’s impossible-to-meet “moral” demands and the misery they produce. It’s also of note that the sexual behavior of repressed Christians often leaks out in incredibly unhealthy ways. The Catholic Church’s ongoing pedophilia scandal is exhibit A. A church that preaches abstinence for the unmarried, celibacy for clergy, and sex within marriage only for procreative purposes, has harbored myriad pedophiles, has shielded them from prosecution, and has made it a routine practice to shuffle them from parish to parish – thus providing them with one fresh set of victims after another.

Protestants have nothing to brag about regarding sexual hypocrisy, either. Exemplary Protestant hypocrites include the Rev. Ted Haggerd, whose meth-and-male-hooker scandal occurred while he was spiritual advisor to George W. Bush; Rev. Jimmy “I have sinned!” Swaggart, whose involvement with female hookers led to his defrocking by the Assemblies of God; homophobic Republican senator Larry “Wide Stance” Crane, who was arrested for soliciting sex in an airport bathroom; Rev. Jim Bakker, who was involved in orgies with members of both sexes – though he went to jail for financial fraud involving his Heritage USA Christian theme park; and family-values Republican senator David “Diaper Man” Vitter, who was re-elected after his hooker scandal came to light.

All of this hypocritical, sordid behavior points to one thing: Christian sexual “morality” produces so much misery that even its most ardent advocates often find Christian “morals” impossible to follow.