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Sep 08 2012

August 2012 Molly runner-up: Anne C. Hanna

[In an argument with a moderate Christian named Chris, who thinks the world wouldn't be any different with or without religion, Anne C. Hanna explains that no, religion has a causal relationship to many of society's ills.]

Anne C. Hanna — 23 August 2012 at 4:09 am

Okay, let’s be clear here, you may not agree with what the bible says about sex, and that’s fine, but if you were to ask me, I’d say that if people listened to what it did say, there wouldn’t be a need for abortion and planned parenthood. What about you? I mean, if any of us had the self control to keep our dicks in our pants until we got married, how many of those programs would be needed? Unfortunately, everyone is fucking everyone and spreading disease along with over populating our country.

The demands religion makes on human sexuality are unreasonable. There has literally never been a human society on the face of the planet, no matter how thoroughly crushed under the thumb of theistic tyranny, where people actually consistently restricted themselves to monogamous marital sex. Even in our modern society, the evidence thoroughly shows that kids subjected to “abstinence only” brainwashing are not significantly different in their sexual behavior from kids given proper sex education, with the exception that the victims of “abstinence only” get more STIs and have more unwanted pregnancies. Given that your friend’s morality appears to be impossible to put into widespread practice, in a pragmatic society, we need to come up with humane ways of dealing with what happens when people deviate from that morality.

Religion’s solutions to the supposed problem of non-sanctioned sex range between completely ineffective and massively inhumane, far out of proportion to any harm that a reasonable person would say could possibly be directly caused by a pair of adults having a little bit of consensual fun. In fact, the notion that two adults engaging in consensual sex has *any* intrinsic harm associated with it (as opposed to incidental harms like unwanted pregnancy) is *entirely* a religious notion. In a secular world, the only harms caused by non-marital sex are: disease transmission, unwanted pregnancy, and relationship conflicts. In a religious world, all of these harms still exist and *in addition* you have the harm caused by religiously-motivated punishment of the people who have sex deemed inappropriate, as well as the harm done by causing people to experience guilt and fear in regard to their sexual desires and interfering with their enjoyment of the positive good called sex.

So, in a world with religion there is just straight-up more net harm. Score one for secularism.

Science education – Yea, religion “shits” on science I guess, but hey, all of the theories and scientific processes to prove things were all invented by men, who as we all know are fallable. The bible? Written by men, so the same concept applies. What makes your science so fucking right? Why is it so believable that we just “poofed” into fucking existence yet unbelievable that someone put us here?

The difference is that the scientific process intrinsically accounts for its own fallibility. Scientists (male and female — it’s not just “men” who invented all this stuff) recognize that we screw up, and so we keep checking ourselves and checking others to find and correct mistakes. In fact, this is what science is, this process of checking your work, looking for inconsistencies, proposing new ways to reconcile them, doing more tests to see if your new ideas are right, and on and on, over and over. The body of facts that constitutes scientific knowledge is just the most current understanding of the results of all this, but it’s perpetually being revised and improved. The Christian scriptures, on the other hand, were set in stone once, hundreds of years ago, and now we’re supposed to accept them as good for all time with no room for corrections, despite your friend’s admission that they are just as much the work of fallible humans as everything in science. It’s just straight-up irresponsible to weigh your understanding of the world down with unbreakable links to some musty old bit of rubbish that can’t ever be revised. If science worked like that we’d be stuck trying to derive particle physics by ever more cryptic extrapolation from the works of Aristotle, and consequently we wouldn’t have any of the knowledge we do today.

Score two for secularism.

As for the Middle East, dude…here’s the deal. We didn’t ask the Middle East to be a bunch of crazy fuckwits, and yeah religion plays a role in their fuckwittery, but I ask you this…..if you believe in something, as passionate as you are, how far would you go to defend it? I’m not saying it makes killing right, but you know as well as I do that if there was no religion, we’d all find something else to kill each other over. You act like if there was no religion then everything would be just peachy, but that’s asinine, and to think otherwise is ignorant.

Your friend needs to read Hector Avalos’ book “Fighting Words”. Avalos makes an (IMO) pretty solid case that in fact religion *does* make this kind of shit worse, by creating imaginary but scarce resources that people are then forced to fight over. Consider, for example, the goddamn Temple Mount in Jerusalem. There is no way in hell that anybody other than archaeologists would give two shits about who owns that tiny little scrap of ground if it weren’t for religion, and yet Ariel Sharon was able to start a riot, and, eventually, a revolt, just by setting foot on the damned thing. There are other concepts beyond supernatural ones that can be similarly crazy-making for people (e.g. The Fatherland, The Proletariat), but throwing supernatural bullshit into the mix adds a whole ‘nother realm for people to be crazy in. Getting rid of religion means there’s one less thing for people to be crazy about, and that seems like a damn good idea to me.

Score three for secularism, and that’s the game. Thanks for playing, Chris, and better luck next time.

32 comments

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  1. 1
    mythbri

    I missed the original discussion on this one – great comment, Anne!

  2. 2
    Pierce R. Butler

    Religion’s unhealthy sexual attitudes may have been necessitated by economic realities in a world without contraception or effective treatment for sexually transmitted infections.

    Given a legacy of hunter-gatherer reproduction and a mix of agricultural and urban habitats (where early childbearing before the ever-increasing age of self-support would be strongly disadvantageous), what other cultural mechanism than a set of rigid taboos would work?

  3. 3
    vaiyt

    @2 I doubt so.

    They don’t work now, and didn’t work in any society we have enough evidence about.

  4. 4
    DutchA

    Excellent reply.

    Much better – IMO – than the winner and second place.

  5. 5
    nohellbelowus

    And in 4th Place, the “other” Antsy Hanna:

    I would suggest, first, that talking about flirting with women as “night moves” is also a sort of skeezy approach to the whole issue. This is not a freaking strategy game, wherein the victory condition (and the prize!) is sticking your pee-pee in a disembodied hoo-hah.

    A “strategy game” is precisely what it is, Polly Purebread, for both genders. Read the Selfish Gene, instead of watching so much television.

    You can accept that the onus for not acting like a bunch of creeps is on y’all men, and that when you fuck up and accidentally act like a creep to a woman you need to blame yourself, not her. It may be the case that it takes practice to avoid this, but unless you go into your practice with the right attitude, you are never going to learn what you need to learn to actually have any success.

    And how might one learn the “right attitude”? Via practice, Polly Purebread.

    BTW… you’ll of course forgive me for not attending your award ceremony. I have a crossword puzzle to finish.

  6. 6
    stonyground

    Regarding religion’s approach to human sexuality, I read an excellent analogy, I am pretty sure that it was on Daz’s Dixie Flatline blog, but I have been unable to find it. The thing is, in pre-scientific times, tight restrictions on sexual behaviour were needed to try to prevent STDs and unwanted pregnancies. In the modern world, these problems can be mitigated to a large extent, but religious people are applying rules that assume that these mitigations don’t exist.

    The analogy used lifts (US, elevators) as an example. When lifts were first invented, using them was potentially dangerous. The reason for this was that a broken cable or a failure of the gearbox could send the car plumetting to the basement leading to death or serious injury to anyone inside. Cue perfect case for a religious rule to be applied. Immoral people use lifts and risk death and injury, lifts cause death and injury, evil lifts! Righteous people use the stairs, lots of righteous hard work, much safer, good stairs.

    Then some guy invents a brake, which the car applies automatically any time that the tension of the cable is relaxed. Should the cable break or the gearbox break, the worst that can happen is that the car gets stuck between floors and some repairs have to be done before the occupants can be released.

    The religious response is that the brake is evil. Their reasoning is that riding in lifts is evil because it is dangerous. The new invention, by making lifts safe, will make more people use lifts and this is a bad thing, because lifts are dangerous.

  7. 7
    jefrir

    Nohellbelowus, you seem to have missed the fact that humans, as a whole, are quite smart. They are therefore entirely capable of having interests in things other than surviving and reproducing. Quite a lot of things, really.
    Most of us, therefore, do not view life as some sort of giant strategy game with the objective being to have as much sex as possible.

  8. 8
    Anne C. Hanna

    !!

    This was not an outcome that I expected at all, but I’m honored. IIRC, John Morales was the one who nominated me, so thanks to him for that.

    DutchA, I appreciate the compliment, but I have to admit I was pretty blown away by both Eris’s and Alethea’s entries, so I’m gonna have to disagree with your evaluation of their relative merits. :)

    nohellbelowus, I’m not sure that conversation reflects as well on you as you’d like to think.

    Also, thanks to mythbri.

    stonyground, I like your analogy.

  9. 9
    silomowbray, sans frottage pour la douche

    @ Anne C. Hanna

    A remarkable rebuttal. Reading your comment was like watching a very sound, reasonable spanking (if there could be such a thing) on the Internets. Not that I seek that kind of thing out you understand.

    Anyway, well done. It was an excellent read.

  10. 10
    Nick Gotts

    A “strategy game” is precisely what it is, Polly Purebread, for both genders. Read the Selfish Gene, instead of watching so much television. – foolfarbelowus

    Why don’t you try reading your holy book, peabrain? Here’s how it ends:

    we have the power to defy the selfish genes of our birth and, if necessary, the selfish memes of our indoctrination. We can even discuss ways of deliberately cultivating and nurturing pure, disinterested altruism – something that has no place in nature, something that has never existed before in the whole history of the world. We are built as gene machines and cultured as meme machines, but we have the power to turn against our creators. We, alone on earth, can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators.

  11. 11
    Anne C. Hanna

    Good quote, Nick. I have indeed read _The Selfish Gene_, and I was trying to work out where Dawkins endorsed NHBU’s beloved naturalistic fallacy. For some strange reason I just couldn’t find it…

  12. 12
    WithinThisMind

    nohellbelowus, I’m not sure that conversation reflects as well on you as you’d like to think.

    I followed this link, and it led me to believe that Richard Carrier has a few massive blind spots that he shares with someloserinthread.

    Namely…we are ‘supposed to’ help men with their ‘game’ via advice and practice. Yet didn’t this whole shitstorm happen because Rebecca Watson did just that? She advised guys on a tactic not to use if they want to be more successful instead of coming off as creepy?

    And the whole ‘scientifically proven than men are less socially adept’ bit of stupid evopsych – did it never occur to Richard Carrier that the reason for that might just be that men are culturally allowed/encouraged to put that burden on the women? That maybe that’s the problem we are trying to fix via calling out the patriarchy/misogyny?

  13. 13
    Alex the Pretty Good

    @ Nohellbelowus, #5

    And how might one learn the “right attitude”? Via practice, Polly Purebread.

    Ummmm… I dunno … maybe through some thing called “empathy”? Especially when coupled with having the radically innovative concept of actually paying attention to being repetitively told which things make women say “Guys, don’t do that.”

    Of course, “women ain’t worth shit” right? So why should a penis-bearer like you have to take the effort of actually trying to imagine what it would be like for somebody to constantly being “hit on”?

  14. 14
    paulambos

    Chris claimed:
    Okay, let’s be clear here, you may not agree with what the bible says about sex, and that’s fine, but if you were to ask me, I’d say that if people listened to what it did say, there wouldn’t be a need for abortion and planned parenthood.

    Aside from the logic [deficient] of Chris’s argument, his premise fails. What he thinks the Bible says about sex is a construct of Aquinas and his successors, including notably a bunch of popes. Hardly a cognizable source of moral authority, and certainly not Biblical.

  15. 15
    baroncognito

    The Christian scriptures, on the other hand, were set in stone once, hundreds of years ago, and now we’re supposed to accept them as good for all time with no room for corrections, despite your friend’s admission that they are just as much the work of fallible humans as everything in science.

    Not at all, they just pretend it hasn’t changed in hundreds of years. In practice, though, they change the text to meet their political goals. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2012/03/22/mischief-follows-in-partisan-bible-translations/

  16. 16
    No One

    nohellbelowus says:

    A “strategy game” is precisely what it is, Polly Purebread, for both genders. Read the Selfish Gene, instead of watching so much television.

    Here ya go, Richard’s response to your mis-interpretaion of the Selfish Gene, the documentary “Nice Guys Finish First”:

  17. 17
    John Morales

    [meta]

    nohellbelowus above alludes to PUA philosophy.

    For those bringing up empathy, I note that (unfortunately) empathy can be a useful tool for malevolent sociopaths — they are not mutually-exclusive attributes.

  18. 18
    Gregory Greenwood

    Congratulations, Anne C. Hanna, on a fantastic verbal take-down of religious apologia. A joy to read.

  19. 19
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt

    Anne, you’ve been writing consistently great stuff, while I had one big dummy spit. You deserve it for more than just this.

  20. 20
    BeckyEscalator

    What was he even talking about in that first paragraph? There’s absolutely nothing about marriage or monogamy that makes you immune to unwanted pregnancy.

  21. 21
    John Morales

    BeckyEscalator, it makes sense if one posits that there is an unstated assumption that the purpose of sexual congress is to have children and that this is only permissible within marriage.

    (Anne addressed that assumption rather well, no?

    “The demands religion makes on human sexuality are unreasonable.”)

  22. 22
    reynoldhall

    I was thinking of that old joke about the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results when I was reading the section on “abstinence* only” education.

    *almost mis-spelled it as “absinthe” for some bloody reason.

  23. 23
    nohellbelowus

    @Nick Gotts #10:

    I knew somebody would bring up the famous “purple” passage at the end of The Selfish Gene. Nice comeback.

    I’m all for eliminating the strategy-game of reproduction — completely. If that’s not a rebellion against our genes, I don’t know what wold qualify. As a man I’d rather focus on science and discovery, and on pleasure. I have serious reservations about allowing everybody the freedom to make babies, especially via the Christian “family values” paradigm that is essentially destroying the world.

    I am all for serious discussions on population control. Hopefully genetics will someday be able to simply manufacture beautiful human beings in the lab.

    Then, without the burden of child-bearing and family finances, women would have the time to train the boys how to “behave” properly with regard to sexual advances, or they could spend time in the lab to find a way to encode this behavior into male DNA.

    ;)

  24. 24
    barbyau

    Nothing chaps my hide more than people denigrating science ON THE INTERNET.

    Get off of this product of science and try to find more natural, Biblical ways to get your message out. Jerks.

  25. 25
    nohellbelowus

    Especially when coupled with having the radically innovative concept of actually paying attention to being repetitively told which things make women say “Guys, don’t do that.”

    You’ve just defined practice. Getting responses like this requires trial & error.

    Thanks for helping make my point.

  26. 26
    Alex the Pretty Good

    @ nohellbelowus, # 25

    You’ve just defined practice. Getting responses like this requires trial & error.
    Thanks for helping make my point.

    Not exactly … I defined theory. I clearly stated that you had to pay attention to the information that is already widely available. I didn’t imply you had to go out and gather that information again for yourself.

    Only this time, don’t pay attention to the “can’t fail” advises of entitled PUA’s, but to the real feedback from women (yes, I know … that implies that you should treat women as fellow human beings. try it sometimes. You might be pleasantly surprised by the outcome) Because there’s tons of readily available feedback out there (for example here on FtB) written for your convenience by women who have been the victim of the relentless onslaught of harrassing creeps who are convinced that the only reason people with two X-chromosomes exist, is to service their cock.

  27. 27
    nohellbelowus

    I clearly stated that you had to pay attention to the information that is already widely available. I didn’t imply you had to go out and gather that information again for yourself.

    Try learning golf with this strategy, for example, or how to throw pottery, or how to dance, or…

    Good luck with that!

  28. 28
    Alex the Pretty Good

    Try learning golf with this strategy, for example, or how to throw pottery, or how to dance, or…

    Good luck with that!

    So … women are just some sport to you? A hobby, a thing to be shaped to your desires and to be discarded when you no longer need them?

  29. 29
    nohellbelowus

    @28:

    Put away your straw-woman. We’re talking about the dance of courtship, aren’t we?

    (Meta: It’s not like women don’t discard men!)

    But if you’re soliciting my opinion on women in general… got a couple of free days? Didn’t think so.

    ;)

  30. 30
    Anne C. Hanna

    nohellbelowus,

    Try learning golf with this strategy, for example, or how to throw pottery, or how to dance, or…

    The fact that you are still on about this shit after all this time is evidence that you really just *are* incapable of learning in any way whatsoever. Every conversation you’ve had here on FTB is a chance for you to practice interacting with women and get better at it, and in every single conversation, you have consistently come off as a skeezy little slimebag whom no self-respecting woman would want to spend five seconds talking to IRL, much less have sex with, much less reproduce with. And you haven’t shown a single scrap of improvement since the first time I saw you blabbering away around here. If anything, you’ve gotten *worse* at it. If cross-gender interactions are a strategy game requiring practice, then you are not only a shitty player, you are a shitty student of the game.

    Every single time you comment here in a way that shows you haven’t learned a thing from your past interactions, you undermine your point that practice makes perfect and reinforce my point that practice only makes perfect if you go into it respecting the people you’re “practicing” with and being willing to listen to their feedback. If you responded to the advice of a golf instructor the way you respond to the advice of the women and competent men here, you would probably not only never get better at golf, you would also eventually get kicked out of the class for your belligerent unwillingness to learn and your harassment of the teacher.

    If you don’t want to learn, stop wasting everyone’s time by making a pretense that you give a shit about learning, you disingenuous little troll. On the other hand, if there *is* some scrap of decency buried in you that actually does want to learn, then it would be best served by you shutting up and listening for a change instead of pretending to be an expert in shit that you clearly know fuck-all about.

    ———

    baroncognito,

    You make a good point that Christians like to fiddle translations (and interpretations) to serve their goals. But even as they’re doing this, they pretend that we’ve always been at war with Eastasia. At best they’ll say, “Oh, the true Christianity was always X, but fallible/selfish humans of past generations twisted it from Jesus’ original intent (or misunderstood it) to make it say Y instead.” They can’t ever just honestly accept that sometimes the stuff that was handed down from our ancestors is wrong and needs to be discarded, so they can’t stop treating their scriptures as special and holy and reconcile themselves to the fact that these works are no more reliable or morally enlightening than any other interesting old documents. Scientists, on the other hand, are practically gleeful about overturning past authorities, or about figuring out stuff that past generations couldn’t figure out. To be sure, it still takes a lot of evidentiary and explanatory weight behind a new idea to overthrow or even modify established paradigms, but once it’s been done, the people who did it are seen as heroes, and their feat is considered a proud milestone in the history of science rather than an inconvenient discontinuity with tradition that needs to be photoshopped into smoothness.

    So I think your point is an important refinement to what I was trying to express about the intellectual sloppiness of religious thinking. I didn’t want to get into details of all the different ways in which the fixation on old books plays out in religious thinking because I was just trying to give a brief overview, but it’s definitely helpful to have these more detailed responses on hand when it comes to that. It didn’t get to that in this case — Chris came back here:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2012/08/16/thunderdome-2/comment-page-2/#comment-439414

    and I responded to him here along somewhat different lines:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2012/08/16/thunderdome-2/comment-page-2/#comment-439765

    and then jonmilne didn’t share Chris’s next response with us, so I’m not sure where things went after that.

    ———

    Others, thanks for the compliments and for working on taking down nohellbelowus. His trolling all over FTB is getting seriously tiresome. This example a few days ago on Cristina Rad’s blog was particularly disgusting:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/cristinarad/2012/09/07/a-response-to-girlwriteswhat-on-the-dmca-drama-more/#comment-3353

  31. 31
    Menyambal

    Unfortunately, everyone is fucking everyone and spreading disease along with over populating our country.

    The heathens are overpopulating? Has this Bible thumper never heard of the Quiverfull crowd? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quiverfull

    Those Christians are deliberately having as many kids as possible. Some are even going on TV to show off about it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/19_Kids_and_Counting

    The cliche of fundamentalists with large families isn’t an accident. The ungodly, meanwhile, are using birth control. This guy is just lost.

    Anne, thank you and congratulations.

  32. 32
    Pierce R. Butler

    vaiyt @ # 3: [Religious sexual taboos] don’t work now, and didn’t work in any society we have enough evidence about.

    The failure rate is very conspicuously well above zero, but I suspect the net effect – in a world without contraception, condoms, or STI treatments – is still powerful.

    In an intelligently designed species, of course, sex hormones would not kick in until after the make-a-living and think-two-moves-ahead processes were fully engaged.

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