This is Part II of a three part series. (Go read Part I if you've not seen it yet!)
SexThe subject of sex in the US is so screwed up, and it is mainly because of religion. The system of patriarchy discussed above forces men and women into gender based roles. While the social aspects of patriarchy are bad enough, the affects on sex and human sexuality are even worse.
As noted above, men are forced into a false and totally artificial image of "manhood", that is as false and artificial as the image of "womanhood" the ladies are forced into. This produces mental and psychological stress and often damage that hurts the individuals, their families and their friends - often their employers as well.
Why? Why is it damaging?
Several reasons. (Stick with me - I'll get to LGBT issues in a bit.)
I think the most obvious is in personal confidence. Body image, and how a person portrays him or herself sexually is extremely important in this country. Heck, for that matter, in much of the world. It affects our social standing, our family and how it is viewed by the larger society, and eventually, how and whether we are accepted as marriage potential.
Accordingly, we are obsessed by sex, we are obsessed with youth and the sexual aspects of it. The secular commercial realm tells us that sex is good, it is natural and wholesome and, well, whoopee!
In American society, sexual beauty and attractiveness is so skewed from the norm that millions of Americans, both men and women, suffer from severe lack of self confidence because they perceive themselves as unattractive, through failing to live up to an artificial and false vision of beauty. No, this isn't because of religion, it is because of rampant and unregulated capitalism.
Religion, or the so-called "Judeo-Christian" or "Abrahamic" religions, especially in this country, as mentioned above, enforce a patriarchy. A large part of that system is the second class status of women, and therefore, control over their public behavior.
Christianity especially, enforces a view of sex that restricts sex to the role of procreation within a family context. This comes, probably, from the role of the family, or the clan, as the center of Roman life. The individual wasn't important, the family or family group, was. Loyalty to that group was paramount, and for women, that meant only having sex with their husband, to preserve the purity of the bloodline. Hence the religious obsession with sex as procreation, looking down on both abortion and contraception. One because it is an "illegal" rejection of the man's seed, and the other as rejection of a man's control over his woman.
So, religion forces us into this weird, twisted image of sex - the patriarchal picture of gender roles, mixed with the god-smacked rejection of women as full humans, subservient to men, and under their full control.
This results in our social culture allowing this culture of rape. Men are supposed to be virile, strong and manly, which is supposed to drive women into raptures of sexual frenzy. Women are supposed to belong to men, which means they owe us sex, and they owe us their love and devotion. Women who reject this and refuse to go along are subjected to campaigns of hate and vitriol, threats of rape and violence.
If a guy doesn't fit that manly, virile picture, he is a failure, and is ridiculed as such.
For women, you have to fit this image of womanhood that reflects the stay at home mother, homemaker, sexy wife and willing brood cow, while the larger social milieu tells you that you've got to be beautiful, sexy, and available to any guy that pinches your ass. If you don't, you're a prude, and you'll never find a husband, especially if you are ugly.
In the meantime, religion tells you that if you DO, you are a slut, a sinner and you'll go to hell.
Guys, largely, get a pass on the religion thing because, you know, patriarchy. Unless, of course, they aren't manly, so they're failures. Or if they allow their wives to "hen-peck" them, they aren't following the bible, so they'll go to hell then, too.
Especially if they are rejected by the ladies. Since this isn't anticipated by the traditional patriarchal framework, guys that see themselves as manly and virile who get rejected by the ladies anyway can't comprehend that rejection. They get mad and blame their failure on the ladies, who, of course, OWE them sex. Severe mental pain and emotional confusion are common resulting from this condition, and has been known to generate violent reactions.
Is it any wonder that Americans are so screwed up about sex? The true wonder is how any of us manage to grow up with normal pictures of reasonable and responsible relationships in time to have families.
But wait, I'm not finished. Not everybody is a cis-gendered, heterosexual human being. Some folks are homosexual. Some folks are trans-gendered, and some are bi-sexual. There are other categories, but I don't feel qualified to talk about them.
These traditional roles I spoke of above, as screwed up as they are, aren't the whole picture, especially since they ignore our LGBT friends. That alone is responsible for untold misery, family fights and estrangements. Since these folks don't fit the "normal" categories, they have traditionally been either ignored or forced into playing roles they were not comfortable with, and often beaten or killed for refusing. All of them are condemned by religion, and totally ignored by the patriarchal system unless they rock the boat.
The 21st century's success in this country in advancing marriage equality for homosexual couples is a remarkable story of the LGBT movement's ability to go mainstream, but is still being fought tooth and nail by the religious right.
Demographics tells us that the religious will lose this fight.
But wait! That's not all, folks!
Let's examine some other issues, like clergy abuse of both children and adults, sexually.
Everybody knows, by now, of the Roman Catholic child abuse scandal. The RCC has spent millions of dollars in the US alone just to make this go away. Not much to actually stop the abuse, but surely to make it go away.
One wonders, as one examines the issue and how the RCC hierarchy responded to the scandal at first. How prevalent IS the abuse of kids by Catholic clergy? And how long has it been going on?
There are some clues.
First, in Ireland, we've all heard of the "laundry scandal", where unwed mothers and their children were warehoused by the Church (with complicit authority from the Irish government of the day) in homes, and were made literal slaves in big laundries. Scorned by the Church for their sexual sins, their children were as badly treated as they were.
This broke even bigger a couple of years ago and again recently when news broke (over here) of the discovery of almost 800 graves in a hidden graveyard, with an unknown number of bodies even hidden in an old unused septic tank. Graves going back over a hundred years.
Also in Ireland, the scandal of a few years ago of stories of child abuse and murder in Irish Catholic monasteries. possibly going back hundreds of years. Horrific stories of terrible abuse, both corporal and sexual, often combined.
In Europe a number of decades ago, there were archeological discoveries of monasteries and cloisters, built fairly close by one another, with hidden tunnels linking the two. The most horrific part of the discovery were chambers off that tunnel containing the graves of infants and fetuses, most of whom were probably buried hours after or before birth.
All of this is evidence of a terrible epidemic of sexual malfunction in a religious hierarchy, over a thousand years old, denied sexual release and access due to official greed, excused and justified by religious scripture.
(For those who don't know, the RCC finally outlawed marriage not for religious reasons, but to end the bleeding of "church" property through inheritance to families of clergy, especially to noble families with large estates. With no marriage allowed, thus no heirs, their property was "inherited" by the Church.)
Don't think that only the RCC is involved, preachers of almost every Protestant denomination regularly are arrested and either fired or also charged for either child abuse or sexually predatory abuse of adults.
It's all over the place.
Not to be outdone, Islam isn't far behind, as you may have noticed in the recent re-emergence of the quote of Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini.
He says: ‘A man can have sexual pleasure from a child as young as a baby. However, he should not penetrate vaginally, but sodomising the child is acceptable. If a man does penetrate and damage the child then, he should be responsible for her subsistence all her life. This girl will not count as one of his four permanent wives and the man will not be eligible to marry the girl’s sister… It is better for a girl to marry at such a time when she would begin menstruation at her husband’s house, rather than her father’s home. Any father marrying his daughter so young will have a permanent place in heaven.’
At least, the Muslims are honest - they'll tell you God wants this to happen.
Talking about child abuse, let's talk about masturbation, something Christianity in most of its forms doesn't like to do. In many denominations, it is banned and called out for being sinful and of the devil.
But now, scientifically, we know that it is not only a natural urge (even infants play with themselves) but it is known to be actually good for you! It releases hormones and endorphins that make you healthier and live longer.
Heck, we know, both from scientific study and from statistics that people who have a long term sexual relationship that is happy for both parties not only stay together longer, but also live longer. Regardless of whether they have kids or not.
So, in summary, religion in this country (and throughout the world) twists sex and sexuality in humans to the point that millions of people are, at best, dysfunctional and at worst, mentally ill and twisted towards pedophilia and sexual predatory practices, even the clergy.
It taints our marriages, our dating practices, and inculcates a culture of rape that regularly threatens the lives and well being of over a half of all women in the United States and probably causes a significant percentage of our divorces.
It directly harms our LGBT friends through violence and intimidation, forcing them into hidden lives and damaging stress by denying them a happy and healthy lifestyle.
And because sex keeps us healthy and can help us live longer, by discouraging sex in most forms and twisting our sexual practices so badly, religion is also killing us.
Are you mad yet?
(Come back tomorrow for Part III)
Robert W. Ahrens
The Cybernetic Atheist