If you could ask a pastor anything, what would you ask?
What are the questions which stop your faith in its tracks?
The pastor, Bobby Pruitt, is doing a sermon series in response to the questions that were submitted to this website. My response to his first sermon in this "Roadblocks" series is here.
Pruitt has given two more Sunday sermons in the series since then, on April 11th and April 18th. I sent Mr. Pruitt a friendly email to let him know that I was following his sermon series on my blog, but he has not yet responded to me.
Why does God care what happens in my bedroom?
The "Roadblock" question for April 11th was:
Why does God care what happens in my bedroom?
Pruitt notes that Christianity's dogma of sexual abstinence outside marriage makes the religion very unattractive to outside. It looks like the Christian God, if he exists, wants people to be left unfulfilled and unhappy. Why would he create us with such strong sexual drives only to insist that we not act upon them?
Pruitt's response is that Christian sexual repression is a good thing because it adhere's to God's law, which is given to us in love for our own benefit.
In this, Pruitt claims, he is just following the Bible:
I'm not gonna depend on my own wisdom (I don't have much). I'm not gonna try to philosophize... I'm just gonna tell you exactly what the Scripture says on this area.
The problem is that Pruitt - and all the rest of us - must in some sense depend on our own wisdom. It is our own wisdom (or lack thereof) that leads us to trust one thing and not the other. Why trust ancient books instead of modern science? That's a choice Pruitt made in his own wisdom. Why trust the Bible instead of the Koran? That's a choice Pruitt made in his own wisdom. Why trust 20th century evangelical Protestant Christian interpretation of the Bible rather than 12th century philosophical Judaic interpretation of the Bible? That's a choice Pruitt made in his own wisdom.
This is an old trick and an extremely effective one. By saying, "Hey, this wasn't my idea, I'm just repeating what God said," religionists have persuaded the faithful to accept countless absurd doctrines and commit countless destructive acts.
We must use our own wisdom. That's our only choice. When you "trust" an authority you are still using your own wisdom to decide which authority to trust.
Now, what about sex?
Pruitt's main point is that sex is a big thing in our lives, so of course a caring God cares about our sexual lives, because he cares about us.
For now, let's set aside the question of whether it's plausible to think that the Creator of a trillion galaxies, each with a billion stars, cares about the daily lives of a particular species of primate on one tiny speck of dust in the vast darkness of space. For now, let's set aside the question of whether that speculation merely illustrates the extreme arrogance of ancient religious and philosophical theories of cosmology. For now, let's take Pruitt's assumptions for granted.
The idea is that God cares, and so he wants what is best of us sexually, and that's why he wants us to have sex only within marriage.
But is the abandonment of sex outside a marriage contract what is best for us?
That's an empirical question. Most counseling psychologists would say that such Christian sexual repression is quite damaging to people.
To be sure, a promiscuous lifestyle takes a tremendous toll as well, especially since the arrival of AIDS. But does that make it wise for religious youths to be so sexually repressed that they marry earlier than is wise just so they can have sex - with early marriage being a great predictor of divorce, such that Christians, especially Baptists, have a higher rate of divorce in America than the general population? Is it wise to prohibit joyful, fulfilling sexual relationships between mature adults who don't want to marry? Are such things really what a loving God would want for his creatures? Are such things really good for us?
Pruitt goes on to explain that not only is non-marital sex sinful, but everything else considered "sexual immorality" (πορνεία, "porneia") in the Bible is also sinful. For most Christian traditions, this would include even masturbation, a form of "adultery in the heart" condemned by Jesus himself. But masturbation is both normal and healthy. Again, the facts of the matter speak against ancient Jewish and Christian "wisdom." We know better now, because we studied human nature in a rigorous way.
If God existed and cared about our well-being, he would recommend masturbation and he would not categorically deny all non-marital sexual relationships.
Also, my readers will be happy to know that Pruitt thinks gays can get into heaven, and not so happy to learn that he equates homosexuality with drunkenness, thievery, and lying. That's Biblical, of course, but it sure is ugly.
I will consider Pruitt's April 18th sermon later, where Pruitt responds to the problem of evil.
This piece was also published on Common Sense Atheism.