I don’t write about religion much on ErosBlog. It’s a sex blog, not a religion blog nor yet a politics blog. But when talking about sex, religion is often the 800lb gorilla in the bedroom, which is probably why I get “you’ll burn in hell” emails on a regular basis.

Here’s college sex educator Emily Nagoski in what she calls her most offensive post yet:

Religion is bad for your sex life. I don’t mean it doesn’t help, I mean it’s actively destructive.

There are exceptions. I had a good friend in grad school who was a religious conservative. Her faith community strongly supporter her decisions around her sexuality and everything seems to have worked out fine for her. No irreparable harm done, to my knowledge.

But globally speaking, religion is bad both at the individual level and at the cultural level. Individually, it results in inhibitions, shame, fear, guilt, bias against others, and acceptance of gender-based stereotypes. Culturally it results in the oppression of women and sexual minorities, the spread of disease (stigma is as much a vehicle of transmission as any bodily fluid), and the obstruction of the scientific study of sexuality.

There I said it.

Go ahead and comment about how some religion or other isn’t like that. Tell me all about how your faith tells you to celebrate god’s gift of the body. I know. Whatever. You’re trying to make your religion work for you. Good luck with that.

I’d say “don’t yell at me, yell at her” except that would be cowardly. I’m not a sex educator nor nor any other kind of credentialed sex expert, but I agree with what she’s saying. It matches all of my reading and observations.

That’s what makes her post pertinent for ErosBlog. Well, plus this little pair of paragraphs from much later in her post:

None of this is aided by the fact that most of the work I do related to religion involves trying to untangle the knots religion has knit into a person’s sexuality. In my experience, in 90% or more cases religion has caused some form of damage to a person’s sexuality. Sometimes it’s indirect — like, a person has to learn that in fact gay people are completely fine — and sometimes it’s as direct as it gets — like the person is in recovery from child sexual abuse perpetrated by their church leader.

To say nothing of the systematic oppression of women, the violence justified by the fairy tales of idiots and madmen (teams of virgins in heaven, awaiting the arrival of a suicide bomber), and the devastating public health consequences of “morality.”

Now, I’m going to indulge myself. Because, however true the above blockquotes may be, they’re not why Emily’s post made me want to shout “Amen, Sister, preach it Baby PREACH it!” Nope, that happened when she got into why religion is absent from her own life. First sentence emphasis added by me:

But the worst thing about religion is that it makes it okay to just believe shit because you want to. No religion, no matter how liberal, escapes that.

I acknowledge a basic bias. For a variety of reasons not immediately relevant to this blog, I think faith/religiosity is an innate part of human psychology. I think human belief in an invisible family in the sky is either product or byproduct of evolution. However, it is, for no apparent reason, NOT an innate part of MY psychology. I had the capacity for faith (in the absence of any particular religion) when I was an adolescent, but the more my prefrontal cortex developed, the more impossible it became for me to believe in ghosts, fairies, invisible friends, etc. It was utterly gone by the time I was 25.

So I’m biased.

I know that the experience of faith is both real and important for lots of people, and I know it offends them when I discuss faith as a form of self-delusion, but I genuinely don’t understand, plain old don’t understand (like, imagine a terrier watching its owners have sex), how a person can CHOOSE to believe in something.

They choose to believe it because it makes them feel good. And I think this characterizes MOST people. I think MOST people are able to believe more or less anything they like the sound of. Indeed we’ve made a virtue of it. Just BELIEVE. It’s The Secret, ya know.

Well, shit, dude. If I could choose to believe whatever I wanted, I too would stop believing in global warming and start believing in angels. But I can’t. I can’t choose to believe anything; I believe what appears to be, given evidence and experience, true. As evidence and experience change, so does what I believe.

Just so.

I, too, lack the ability to “decide” to believe in something. I’ve never had it. I’ve never understood it. Like Emily, I don’t comprehend it. This. Does. Not. Compute.

All my life, people of faith have been urging me to join them. “Just BELIEVE”, they tell me, and all will be peachy.

“Just assemble the jigsaw puzzle”, they might as well be saying, “and when it’s all done and the picture clear and beautiful on your coffee table, the puzzle pieces will magically arrive in the mail.”

Like Emily, I can’t do that. I don’t know how to put the puzzle together before the pieces arrive. Don’t have the ability. At one time, around age 10 when all my friends were evangelical Christians, I wanted to have it; but I didn’t have it. And now, I don’t want it if I could get it. It’s not okay to just believe shit because you want to.

The reasons it’s bad for sexuality, Emily has covered. The other reasons it’s not okay are mostly beyond the scope of a sex blog. But it’s just not.

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