In this blog post I wanted to deal with Mark Clark’s book The Problem of God: Answering a Skeptic’s Challenges to Christianity, specifically his chapter on Sex. I plan on commenting on a couple of his chapters and views. It’s a new book — that is why I think it’s relevant to comment on it. People still believe in this stuff, it’s not going away anytime soon.
Audio File (for u lovely folk):
Clark’s chapter on sex is summed with these three points. He thinks that all secular people fit into these three categories:
Let me preface before getting into this, I do think that Christians can have a healthy sex-life. I also think that the Christian view on Sex is pretty good. Sex should between two mutually consenting adults that are in it for the long run. Now, that’s where we get into a lot of problems. Quick housekeeping:
- Christians do believe that homosexuality is wrong. No matter what the liberal Christians are preaching nowadays, it is clear from the Bible that homosexuality is considered a sin. That deserves a blog post in and of itself and I have already started writing on that. Let me make it clear: I believe that homosexual activity is completely okay. So when I say that the Christian view on Sex is pretty good, I mean just in the context of marriage between two consenting adults that are in it for the long run.
- All sexual activity outside of marriage is considered a “sin” in the Christian framework. This position is unhealthy, as I will briefly argue below. Yes, I believe that sexual activity is healthy between adults that desire it for the long run, but I also think that sexual exploration is needed in order to understand what one wants and desires.
- I wanted to briefly outlines these two views just for the sake of context. As you are reading these, keep this in mind.
We’re all alive. We’re all trying to be great people, hopefully. The purpose for this blog post is merely to question our intentions as a society. I want to understand why we are the way we are. That is why I write. As my bio says: On a quest to find life. I also want to question whether we have unhealthy views. After reading this chapter I came to the conclusion that there are some misunderstandings Clark has (and he does represent a significant percentage of Christians) on the secular view on sex.
Now, why are Christians sexually chaste? We could discuss the virgin Mary and how that has influenced the Christian view. We could do a number of things. But this blog post is not the place. Maybe in the near future. This is only meant to serve as an introduction and a response to Mark Clark. Let me look at it from a different angle.
The trace of Religious sexual chastity, by some, is considered to go way back to early civilizations. Sam Harris writes about this briefly in his book on Morality:
“The evolutionary origins of religion remain obscure. The earliest signs of human burial practices date to 95,000 years ago, and many take these as evidence of the emergence of religious belief. Some researchers consider the connection between religion and evolution to be straight-forward insofar as religious doctrines tend to view sexual conduct as morally problematic and attempt to regulate it, both to encourage fertility and to protect against sexual infidelity. . . . It is, therefore, tempting to trace a line between religious doctrines regarding marriage and sexuality to evolutionary fitness” (Moral Landscape, 147).
Later on I’ll touch on the misconceptions Clark has on the Darwinian perspective on sex. For now, let us get into the main three points of his chapters.
The worst feature of the Christian religion is its attitude towards sex. — Bertrand Russell
I don’t think that Christians (or the Bible) think that sex is bad. That’s where I have in the past disagreed with Bertrand Russell and the statements he makes on sex in the Christian perspective from the book Why I am not a Christian. I don’t think he understands the whole picture.
The world is not as black and white as you think it is, Clark. This is the problem with Christianity. Sin is such a present force in Scripture that everything needs to be painted with the same brush. This is where his second point comes in play as well. It’s basically just an expanding of the first view on sex.
Personally, I don’t want sex to be a “god” in my life. I want other things such as knowledge, virtue, generosity, and kindness to be the gods of my life. I want my life to be about other people. I don’t masturbate on a daily basis. And I wish to completely cut out masturbating because of the discipline of self-control. I think self-control to be one of our most valuable assets in our society. Once again, his point just doesn’t apply to me and I’m sure to millions of other Atheists.
Today as I was writing this at the College two friends came up to me (they aren’t even friends to be honest, I see them from time to time at the place I work at and we just recognized each other) and I told them about what I am writing. They instantly agreed that they prefer to have quality sex over cheap “hook-up culture”. I’m sorry but this is not the world we live in. People don’t tend to hook up very often. Actually, research has been conducted suggesting that people tend to say that they have sex much more often than they actually do, especially when they are single. I agree, hook-up culture is empty. That is not to say that people are weak and sometimes fall into it’s trap of empty promises. It’s very likely. But that should not be our aspiration.
Yet again, I don’t fit into this category. Actually I did have this view early on in my Atheist stage. I thought that masturbating is identical to having a meal, you do it when you are “hungry” to borrow from Clark. But after thinking about it for some time over the past months I’ve come to the conclusion that this is not a healthy understanding of masturbation over all.
Yes, some Atheists just act out on their sexual impulses whenever they want to. But some don’t. Timothy Ferris is a great example of this. There are so many people out there that read and follow Ferris’ principles. Apart from him, think about past philosophers such as Henry David Thoreau or Aristotle. Both have been tremendous voices for simplicity and abstinence of fleeting pleasure in one’s life. I don’t think that Atheists should be acting out on all their impulses, whether they be sexual or not. Do you need that piece of chocolate? No. Then you don’t have to eat it. Do you need to masturbate in order to be relieved and fulfilled? No. Going to the gym, or meditation will probably help you more.
That is the problem of the culture we live in. We think that solutions to the problems are out there in the materialistic world. But they are not. They are inside. In order to be happy, you just need proper perspective — gratitude.
The “Darwinian View on Sex”
Quotation marks (“”) because Clark completely misunderstood the Darwinian actual view on sex. There is a difference between how the animal world has sex and how we have sex, obviously. We have also come a mighty far distance from the understanding our ancestors have had about sex.
Clark says the following:
We are told that “our ancestors were not monogamous” but were instead “harem builders (like seals and walruses), where any male who monopolized power and wealth could also monopolize females, thus ensuring the survival of his genes” In such a construct, adultery and polygamy are simply a remnant or fossil from our genetic past. This being the case, Richard Dawkins, recognizing where his philosophy leads him, claims that his own monogamous marriage to his wife is an “un-Darwinian personal decision.” But, of course this is ridiculous, because if we are really programmed by our genes through Darwinian selection, how could anyone make an “un-Darwinian” decision? (172)
I chuckled when I read this on the bus this morning. Let me highlight what he said that made me so giddy: “this [un-Darwinian personal decision] is ridiculous, because if we are really programmed by our genes through Darwinian selection, how could anyone make an ‘un-Darwinian’ decision?”
Everyday when I am at the College, I see dozens, if not hundreds, of very attractive females. And females tend to want to dress attractively, for some reason. Do I want to act out on my impulses every single time I see someone attractive? Of course not. Do I notice that someone is attractive. Yes, of course. Same goes the other way, a lady notices if a guy is attractive (if we’re talking about straight people here).
In hunter-gatherer societies one would come across someone that he’d find suitable to mate and subsequently “lay” with her in order to start a family, because the group of 200 people he’s with was his entire tribe. There was no: “oh sorry your character doesn’t suit me.” We live in such an over-populated world that it would be impossible to act out on all our Darwinian impulses. Back in the day it was the only option. You saw someone you found attractive, you had sex. Why is it not the same today? Because you meet someone attractive all the time. It’s nothing new.
Think about pornography. Every one of us, if we wanted, would have access to some of the most beautiful people alive on the internet any second they would want to. Why does the Atheist in us — Dwayne Johnson, Timothy Ferris, Tony Robbins, Jakub Ferencik, Joe Rogan, etc. — not act out on these decisions? Because that is not the way to have prolonged happiness. The only way to be sexually fulfilled is to have a relationship that is lasting, as was the case with hunter-gatherer societies. If you were to have a successful family, you’d have to be close to your wife so that you would not create strife in the family and tribe. Why not create strife, you ask? Because if you created strife your family would be ostracized from the tribe, or you may be killed. This all makes complete sense to anyone that would give it a second thought.
Now I’m not an expert on hunter-gatherer societies, but I recommend reading the book Homo-Sapiens: A Brief History of Time from which I am getting a lot of these ideas.
A lot of our behavior is also determined from our upbringing, things we can’t effect such as family, culture, social values, etc. These all influence the reason why some choose to be sexually chaste for some time. It’s possible to be completely sexually chaste, as Christianity requires of single un-married couples. But is that what fulfills us? No. You are not designed to be sexually chaste at the age of 16. You were meant to be sexually exploring and already married/having sex on a regular basis. That is why I think that masturbation is OK in this present age. Either way, is it healthy to question whether we are addicted to things and take breaks? Yes. That is why I took a 30 day break from sugar. That is why I take regular breaks from caffeine and the internet.
30 Days Without Sugar, How I did It — The Process of Success
I made a bet. $100 if you don’t go without eating sugar for the month of August.
Now let’s get to the specifics. Why should we prefer to abstinate from masturbation? So let me tell you. As an Atheist, I believe that masturbation can be a waste of time. I don’t think that masturbation is harmful. There is such a thing as healthy masturbation. That is why I do masturbate from time to time. What I’ve been trying of late is complete abstination. But my reasons are completely free from guilt and religious motivations. I honestly enjoy masturbating. I also enjoy hot showers, there is nothing quite relaxing as a warm shower after a long day. But I have switched to cold showers on a daily basis. Why is that? Why do we do things that are not natural and not particularly pleasing in the moment?
The reason for me to not masturbate is simply spending my time intentionally. I go to school, I work, I have a social life, I have responsibilities, and I want to be the most valuable asset to society as possible, as I believe my duty is. Not that someone who does masturbate is not an asset to society. That’s only a part of the problem. For me personally, I know that my personality tends to be addictive. I either spend all my time doing something or none of my time. That is why I abstinate from masturbation. I have adopted a similar view on masturbation as Timothy Ferris has. I don’t think it’s bad, I will do it again in my life. I merely want to challenge myself at this stage of my life.
The problem with Clark’s view on sex is that I don’t fit in any of his three categories. This isn’t just me. This is a lot of people. This black and white view on the Atheist world needs to stop. We are all different. We all value different things. Very few people in my life agree with Hollywood’s portrayal of sexuality. Why do Christians think that everyone adopts Ariana Grande’s sexual ideas? They are so radically distant from mine. Mainly because I’m not a super attractive, blue-eyed, ripped, blond — granted. It is hard to know why we are wired the way we are. I could want to be non-sexual because I am not stereo-typically attractive. If that is the case, I am thankful.
To summarize, Atheists don’t just have three views on Sex. Clark said that Atheists fit into these categories, either you: (1) think that God doesn’t like sex, (2) or sex obsesses all your life, or lastly (3) that sex/masturbating should be acted upon when the desire arises in us.
You understand where my problem lays. The problem is grand if the Atheist world is portrayed with such simplicity and bias.
Before you go…
If you found this article helpful, click the
button below or share the article on Facebook if you want your friends to benefit from it in some way at all. Who knows? Maybe they’ll like it. I write to keep you thinking and to keep me thankful and reflective. Cheers cheers cheers and until next time,