Win a Copy of The Humanist Approach to Happiness September 7, 2010

Win a Copy of The Humanist Approach to Happiness

Jennifer Hancock is the former executive director for the Humanists of Florida Association. She now writes a blog called Happiness Through Humanism and just released a book called The Humanist Approach to Happiness: Practical Wisdom:

[This] is a book that basically says — here are personal ethics, here is why they are important, and here is how you can apply them to your daily life and why doing so will help you live a happier more productive life. It isn’t a philosophy book so much as a book about the pragmatic reasons for being an ethical, compassionate and responsible person.

I’m all for books that are light on philosophy and heavy on practical wisdom.

Among the section topics: love, treating others well, embracing your inner dork, being healthy, ending relationships, and death.

An excerpt from the sex portion of the book is below:

The Costs and Consequences of Sex

“Sex always has consequences. When Hitler’s mother spread her legs that night, she effectively canceled out the spreading of fifteen to twenty million other pairs of legs.”

— George Carlin

Everything has a cost. Before you act, you really need to consider whether you can handle the consequences. And this is doubly true when it comes to sex. Anyone who tells you that sex is no big deal is either lying or isn’t doing it right. Sex is a big deal and it has emotional, physical, and sometimes financial consequences. Before you have sex with someone, make sure you are prepared for those consequences. This is where being responsible comes into play.

Your Heart

First and foremost is your heart. If you are having sex for the wrong reasons, you will regret it afterward, and that kind of ruins the experience. Sex is best when it is a loving expression of your feelings for another person. When you are sharing a part of yourself in a very intimate way with someone you love, it can be magical. If, however, you are having sex to keep your partner with you, then when (not if) they leave you, you will be miserable. The question you need to ask yourself is, if the worst that could happen happens and this person never calls you again, how will you feel about what you have done?

Your Health

Having sex with the wrong individual can kill you. Sexual transmitted diseases (STDs) are real, and if you have sex, you are at risk of contracting one. You can mitigate that risk by choosing your sexual partners very carefully, making sure that you are only having sex in mutually exclusive relationships, making sure each partner is tested for STDs before engaging in sex, and using protection anyway. If you think all this would kill the moment, consider how bad it would be if it actually killed you instead.

Sex can obviously lead to pregnancy, even if you use precautions. And if you aren’t prepared for that possibility, you might want to hold off on having sex until and unless you are ready to handle an unintended pregnancy. Also, if you don’t think your partner can handle that consequence, don’t have sex with him or her.

Your Money

Finally, there are sometimes financial consequences. Sex with prostitutes isn’t the only sort of sex that costs money. Having a child, even if you give it away, costs money. Contracting an STD costs money. Affairs can be very expensive. People have lost their jobs because of sex. Do you want sex badly enough to lose your job, or get extorted by a spurned lover who is threatening you? If not, then it is best to keep your pants on and pass on that offer of free sex. Nothing is ever free.

The Humanist Approach to Sex

“In all sexual encounters, commitment to humane and humanistic values should be present.”

— The American Humanist Association, Sexual Bill of Rights and Responsibilities

Sex is a big deal. There are consequences to having sex and you should be prepared for those consequences before engaging in sex with anyone. The Humanist approach to sexuality is that it should be pleasurable, loving, and free of guilt. But that doesn’t mean that anything goes. With the freedom to express your sexuality comes responsibility. From a Humanist perspective, sexual morality cannot be separated from general morality. Both must include compassion, ethics, and responsibility.

Whether any given sex act is morally acceptable from a Humanist perspective really depends on whether it helps the people involved become happy or causes suffering. Sexual pleasure must not come at the expense of someone else’s happiness.

To make sure sex is a source of both pleasure and happiness for you, take precautions to keep yourself and your partners safe. Don’t develop unrealistic expectations for yourself or your partners through the irresponsible use of pornography or other forms of sexually fantasy. Choose your partners wisely. And always approach sex as a responsible, educated, compassionate, and ethical person.

Jen’s has graciously offered to donate a copy of the book to one lucky reader.

Since her book is all about practical advice for those of us who don’t believe in a god, it raises this question:

What advice do you wish you would’ve received when you first became an atheist?

Leave your thoughts in the comments and make sure the word “Trampoline” is at the end of it if you’d like to be considered for the prize! (If the word isn’t there, I’ll just assume you want to comment but not win.)

Jen will pick a winner among all the entries next Tuesday!


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  • cathy

    Fearmongering about STDS and an assumption that sex has to equal love? Come on, can’t we do better than that? (and yes, it is fearmongering when someone invokes the ‘better not have sex unless you want to die’ trope. A sex positive approach would be to give information about prevention and treatment (because most stds are curable, and those that aren’t are treatable)).

  • I’m with cathy on this. While most of the observations made are, indeed, spot on, it would be better to see sex portrayed in a more positive light, and with less of the emotional baggage that is so commonly attached to it for no damn good reason at all. I’ve been to countries where sex is not considered as something evil and people have a more relaxed attitude towards recreational copulation. Really, taken from a worldly perspective, sex isn’t such a big deal.
    Sex is NOT always comparable to playing with a loaded gun. To some degree, it appears the author suffers from the inherent American cultural bias against sex.
    Nearly all behaviors have consequences. This should be readily apparent to any adult, at least in theory. Perhaps this book is intended for a younger audience? If so, I’d say, “Don’t mix messages intended for kids with messages that should be for adults.”
    My advice to adults?
    Wear a rubber or be sure in your partner’s fidelity, don’t be a jerk and have fun. THAT should be the message to adults.

  • Elena Villarreal

    “Anyone who tells you that sex is no big deal is either lying or isn’t doing it right. Sex is a big deal and it has emotional, physical, and sometimes financial consequences.”

    Oh, fuck you! Thanks for telling me what my emotional response to casual sex should be. I suppose if I don’t have one, I should feel guilty for not feeling guilty. I suppose I’m “not doing it right.”

    This is just conventional upper-middle class American morality. Christians have convinced everyone that it is irresponsible and un-serious not to condemn casual sex. So the secular ones have to make up secular reasons. They throw around words like “self-respect,””love,” “HIV,” “responsibility,” and “consequences.” How does it not respect yourself to do what you want to do that hurts no one?

    Really what it comes down to is a visceral disgust with those filthy sluts, particularly women. Contemporary culture has just given people a new avenue to express that disgust. This is not humanism; this is the wisdom of repugnance.

  • keddaw

    Fear-mongering nonsense.

    Don’t develop unrealistic expectations for yourself or your partners through the irresponsible use of pornography or other forms of sexually fantasy.

    Define unrealistic, define irresponsible, define pornography for that matter.

    I would say that the use of pornography creates less unrealistic, and less damaging, expectations than most romantic novels.

    And sex isn’t that big a deal.

  • Franco

    I also disagree with this more than a little. This excerpt reads like a warning to middle-schoolers. I think most adults with a healthy sexuality would find this condescending and immature.

    Of course, now I have to buy the book to see how the rest matches up. Touche, Ms. Hancock.

  • There’s a lot of overreaction to this…

    If you and your partner(s) can handle casual sex, more power to you all. Not everyone can.

    I don’t see an STI warning as “fearmongering.” Everyone should take precautions and use protection, especially if it’s casual.

    I don’t see how her advice is bad. Maybe it doesn’t all apply to you, but I think it makes good sense.

  • Tim

    I wish that I had this powerful tool called the Internet when I realized that I was an Atheist. Because now, Atheists are able to come together across the world and share their experience, knowledge and wisdom to both the young and old. When I was 16 and left christianity, I really felt as if I were the outcast because my entire family and set of friends believed (and still believe) in a god.

    TRAMPOLINE!!!

  • Bob

    I’m going to run against the trend and agree with Ms. Hancock, simply because no matter how enlightened you claim to be, it’s true: sex carries significant consequences with it. I don’t think that’s meant to dispute that sex can be an incredible, mind-blowing experience sufficient to derail even the most rational thinker.

    Come on, folks, it’s a point of view. It may not be perfect, but it’s the concept of ethics based on rational thought rather than some dusty tome and invisible sky fairy.

    If ‘rational’ means ‘only one solution, and I have to agree/approve of it,’ then it’s no better than certain trends in Christianity, where y’all have to sing the same hymns and hate the same people.

    Trampoline.

  • Oana

    Since i only recently realized that I was an atheist, i do hace access to the internet, and i have all the support I need. And that is all thanks to people like you, with blogs as awesome as this.

    I feel truly fortunate to have all these resources available to me.

    Trampoline.

  • I agree with a lot of the criticisms in the comments. She seems to preclude the possibility of emotionally healthy casual sex. That said, I still want to see what she has to say in the rest of the book.

    I left Christianity only a year ago. I was fortunate to have an atheist friend who I was able to talk about post-Christian morality with.

    The one thing I wish someone had told me is that thoughts are not bad. I was deep into the fearthought Christian teachings and when I first became an atheist all of the thoughts I had worked so hard to repress came flooding back with a vengeance. It took me a while to realize on my own that thinking something is not the equivalent of doing it. Thoughts are natural – and neutral. It’s what we do with them that determines what kind of person we are.

    Trampoline

  • Joseph R.

    I came from a community where it was NOT acceptable to have an atheist point of view. I wish someone could have been there to reassure me that it was okay to be an atheist.

    trampoline

  • Matt

    Hehe… Hancock… *snickers*

  • Best advice I would have liked to know was this: learn to live with the religious. The world is full of far more religious people than atheists. In your day-to-day lives, you do not have to accept the beliefs of others, but you do need to tolerate that they do have their own beliefs.

  • “You’re not alone, and there’s other people out there who think the same as you, and what you’re thinking is normal. Visit a library, find a book by one of these geezers Dawkins or Hitchens, and sit down and see if that’s what you think – and then figure out where you don’t quite agree with them, because that’s part of what thinking on your own is.”

    Trampoline! (north of the border, so don’t include me if shipping north is out!)

  • Danny

    Not knowing any atheists when I got rid of my religion, I wish someone could have just said to not be afraid of or embarrassed by atheism. That would have helped quite a bit.

  • annette

    trampoline.
    I think I’m going to have to get this book if I don’t win it because it sounds like practical ideas for how to teaching my children about basic morality and practical living without a god.

    I’m going to have to go with the writer about a lot of this.
    1. Unprotected sex with a partner infected with an STD can get you an STD too. (so can protected sex, sometimes)
    2. Unprotected sex with a partner can get you pregnant, or get your parnter pregnant (assuming, one of you is a woman, and the other man–and can even happen with protected sex. My best friend just had this happen after 15 years of protected sex, now she’s pregnant and doesn’t like the father, but wants the baby. . .etc.)
    3. Both of these things can cost money.
    4. Sex may create intimate, emotional bonds between people. (not necessarily, but it may)

    If you are capable of having sex with no strings attached, and accept all of the possibilities above, go for it. Ignoring the facts is silly.

  • Danny

    Not knowing any atheists when I got rid of my religion, I wish someone could have just said to not be afraid of or embarrassed by atheism. That would have helped quite a bit.

    Trampoline

  • Vas

    I’m throwing in with the first five posts on this one< ( ++ for Elena). That WAS fear-mongering, dogmatic, sex negative, clap trap! "You can mitigate that risk by …making sure that you are only having sex in mutually exclusive relationships" Oh really let me suggest this, You can mitigate all risk by fucking yourself! Over-reacting my ass pal, now you are gonna tell us how to react!?! This one really pissed me off, big time. Stay tuned for more rules and atheist/humanist definitions, (as if they are one in the same *facepalm*) kids, the powers that be are working hard to define their own personal utopia, better toe the line or you can't be in the big A club. So much about this article disgusts me, I'm spitting nails right about now. Practical wisdom my ass… Half baked advice is more like it.

  • Jude

    I’ve been an atheist for such a long time that it’s difficult for me to think about the advice I would like to have received, but I suppose that the most useful thing would have been for someone to tell me that I don’t necessarily have to share any of my beliefs (un-beliefs) with anyone else. It’s my business.

    Trampoline.

  • Bill

    It would be nice to live in a world where practical thought was the norm, we don’t! If warnings on STD’s are offensive so be it. We have to acknowledge that there are many stupid people out there who ignore the truth because it is not given by some biblical zealot. Oh to live in a world where common sense was the norm and religious ignorance was uncommon!

  • Lamont

    “What advice do you wish you would’ve received when you first became an atheist?”

    Since I was raised an atheist this question doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.

  • I had given up on faith (in an imaginary creature) long ago, but continued participating in religious customs and rituals and took quite some time to acknowledge myself as an atheist, since I had never known one and it seemed too socially unacceptable. On the other hand, I began thrusting my new-found atheism in all directions immediately afterwards, in the process perhaps hurting the sentiments of some of my friends and colleagues.

    I think it would have been wise to take a more balanced approach to the philosophy and for me to voice my opinions in a politically correct manner (for the sake of friendships and ahem, career prospects), whilst upholding them.

    Trampoline

  • Rob

    This article, and the following comments, managed to get ” I want your sex” by George Michael in my head, that is impressive (not something I listen to).

    Having been raised catholic, and soon about to have twin girls, I’m having a hard time figuring out what I will do with the sex topic. I appreciate the debate and the authors inputs.

    Trampoline

  • Claudia

    I was all excited about the idea of a practical Humanist book, something I’d love to get my hands on. However the sex-negativity is so stunning it makes me doubt how valuable the rest of the book may be. I’m glad to see there is some significant pushback.

    Anyone who tells you that sex is no big deal is either lying or isn’t doing it right.

    No, anyone who tells you sex is never a big deal is lying to you or hasn’t experienced big deal sex yet. The way you put it basically is a denial that casual, friendly safe sex is an possibility, which is just as much BS as to say sex is never a big deal.

    Having sex with the wrong individual can kill you. Sexual transmitted diseases (STDs) are real, and if you have sex, you are at risk of contracting one. You can mitigate that risk by choosing your sexual partners very carefully, making sure that you are only having sex in mutually exclusive relationships, making sure each partner is tested for STDs before engaging in sex, and using protection anyway.

    Fearmongering at its finest. Be afraid of sex. NEVER have sex outside a monogamous relationship and even if you are in one you shouldn’t trust your partner and continue to use condoms. No friends with benefits, no hook-ups with proper protection, any sex, even sex with protection, requires extensive bloodwork beforehand. It’s quite an education to see that atheists can almost as sex-negative as our best religious wackos.
    Yes, STIs can result from sex, just as traumatic brain injury can result from riding your bike, even if you wear a helmet. Most STIs are not deadly. Even HIV is no longer the death sentence it once was, though its plenty nasty and well worth avoiding. As an adult you must measure what you are willing to risk for a given gain. The more sex you have with the more people and the fewer precautions you take the more likely you are to get an STI. The chances of getting HIV when using a condom are vanishingly low. If you have so little trust in your monogamous partner that even after STI testing you still want condoms, then something is either wrong with you or the relationship.

    Sex can be fun. Sex can be fucking fantastic. Some of the best sex happens with no strings attached. Some of the best sex is also a profound sharing of intimacy and trust and emotional connections. So far as I can tell the only concern a Humanist should have is that the two (or more) people involved are A- consenting adults B- not there under false pretenses, which is another form of A and C-not putting any third party in a situation that unfairly harms them or that they have not consented to.

  • annette

    I get the impression that “sex negative” means mentioning that in addition to an orgasm, one can get pregnant/an STD from sex. Seems to me the writer is assuming that sex is good, but that there may be negative consequences. I guess the only way for the writer to get this right is to say, “Do whatever the hell you want, all that pregnancy/STD/emotional cost stuff doesn’t exist. Sex is good, always. Always. Always. There is never any possibility for problems.”
    Is that “sex-positive”?

  • What advice do you wish you would’ve received when you first became an atheist?

    That someday shortly some guy in a white jacket and scrubs was going to yank me from my warm safe place, protected and secure, and literally cut me off my food supply and slap me hard on the butt.

    Seriously, though… I find the question slightly flawed because it supposes that the natural original state of the respondent is to be a theist; that one becomes an atheist LATER in life. I would suggest that we are, in truth, BORN atheists, with our parent(s) / caregiver holding the role of miraculous super-beings, until our own observations about their all too human limitations and “flaws” overthrow the naive idealism. Hello, disillusionment.

    What advice do you wish you would’ve received when you first became an atheist?

    That everything I know, I see…? Has not always been this way. Will not remain this way. That the universe is in a cyclical state of creation and destruction, like a deck of cards constantly getting shuffled.

    That traditions are precursors to the current state of our world. That traditions are a means of creating the illusion of stability and generating a sense of social and cultural identity BEYOND the individual, but should not be how the individuals are defining themselves. That they are ultimately a means of crowd control.

    That there are people in the world who are still disillusioned with the idea that their parent(s) / caregivers were NOT perfect and flawless, and seek to cling to traditions that were meant to explain the state of the world to them in a time that answers were much harder to come by, and desire to fix the flow of the universe to that long ago idealism regardless of the flaws or consequences of fixed stagnant thinking in a constantly evolving and changing universe. These people are seeking meaning and purpose for living, when the simplest answer, “BEING”, confuses them, or doesn’t provide the feeling of security that a celestial parent who will take care of them might.

    That one must always question “authority”, and when in doubt, to assume authority themselves.

    That all actions, both minor and major, have consequences. Like a ripple in a pond, it will spread, sometimes to fade into nothingness, other times to capsize you or someone else. Everything is connected, even if we cannot see the connection. The simple fact of co-existence is enough proof of this.

    I could elaborate more, I suppose, but these points would be enough of a starting point to garner questions individual-specific, which would be the beginning of the true journey of discovery, both universal and of one’s self. And I can think of no better gift to give an individual.

    TRAMPOLINE

  • Kaitlyn

    I think it’s interesting that, at least in this excerpt, it didn’t address the idea that sex is simply sex. In my opinion you need to be safe when approaching sex, and everyone involved has to be knowledgeable and consenting, but beyond that is personal and difficult to give advice on.
    “Sex is best when it is a loving expression of your feelings for another person. When you are sharing a part of yourself in a very intimate way with someone you love, it can be magical. If, however, you are having sex to keep your partner with you, then when (not if) they leave you, you will be miserable.” This seems a bit like it is instilling sexual ideals, which I don’t necessarily agree with. Not say that people aren’t allowed to feel that way, just personally sex is not ‘magical’ and the use of that term in the context of advice is frustrating. Sex to me in a biologic process, and it’s fun, but there are strong and separate emotional and sexual components to relationships that can be present together or apart. There is no shame to a sexual relationship happening without an emotional one.

    That being said, it IS nice to see an attempted discussion on secular morality and it’s structure and importance

    I’m very interested in what the rest of the book has to say.

    🙂
    Trampoline

  • Ash

    The author could profit from a nice long talk with Greta Christina…

    The section on sex is not particularly humanistic, just standard “sex is a loaded weapon” talk which sounds like a middle school lecture intended to kill the buzz. She isn’t *wrong* exactly, but the tone is all off and not particularly humanistic.

    I think a better approach would have been to draw a contrast from many religious views that define sex as filthy and sinful. She could have talked about how sex is a natural expression of being human and that a responsible exploration into one’s sexuality can open doors to deep fulfillment and joy. But sex doesn’t *have to* be a big deal, it can also be an exciting and fun time between consenting adults without any need for guilt as long as it was conducted with respect and basic precaution.

    Yes, sex has consequences, but adults don’t need this kind of lecture. Americans especially need to heal from the pathological Christian bias against sex and this book does not seem to address this at all. Disappointing.

  • The best advice I would give to a new atheist is: Don’t stop with god, and don’t think you’re free of false beliefs. Keep applying reason and examining your assumptions. Even after I became an atheist I spent years reading psychic how-to books. It wasn’t until I started testing what I was reading and seeking empirical evidence that I dismantled these false beliefs also.

    Also, to all the people trashing the sex section above, I would like to support what she and Hemant say. There’s a difference between fear-mongering and explaining repercussions. Just like there’s a difference between driving a car properly and ignoring red lights, stop signs, etc. People hate hearing about the basics of driving a car and how accidents happen all the time, and I think this might be a similar situation. I think casual sex is very enjoyable and between two consenting people it’s a non-issue but statistics happen and we can’t ignore them.

    Trampoline

  • Hangnail

    When I realized that I was an Atheist, it wasn’t too big of a deal to me. I kinda wish someone would have told me that it would be a big deal to the ones I love.
    Trampoline

  • Liokae

    What advice do you wish you would’ve received when you first became an atheist?

    Hmm… well, I didn’t really BECOME an atheist… just kind of realized it at some point after a long, gradual process. But when I did actually realize it… I guess it would have been great if there was someone there to show me where I could find people to talk to about it that I could trust would be accepting. I know *now* that my parents would have been supportive, but there was no indication at the time, and I spent a long while just sort of… trapped in my head with my thoughts on it.

    That’s the advice I would have looked for, and would give to anyone fresh from their realization or decision. You’re not alone, and there are places in your community and on the Internet where there are people who’ve realized the same things you have, and that you can talk to. And you *should* talk to them! Sound out your ideas, express your doubts, question everything. Don’t be afraid. It’s a huge new world out there, but you don’t have to face it alone.

  • d’Armond

    Sadly I cannot participate in the contest because I was raised an atheist, I never had a moment of realization or deconversion. When I was younger I couldn’t articulate well my non-belief; I just thought religion was silly. Now I am armed with the scientific method and sound arguments against “God of the Gaps” reasoning. So I would recast the challenge to include “if I knew then what I know now.”

    I wish I had known that there are so many other secularists, atheists, humanists and others who are living meaningful lives, often showing great compassion for others, without being driven by fear of eternal punishment or desire for eternal reward. I wish I had understood that there is a basis for ethics and morality in caring for others without appeal to invisible father figures. But most of all I wish I could have understood the difference between the immoral and hypocritical religious systems that, for example, protect pedophile priests; and the day-to-day morality as practiced by all people, even those who subscribe to those systems. Most people are good people with a common understanding of ethics, and arguing with them over the ethics of their particular flavor of fairy tales is not only a waste of time, but can be counterproductive. In fact, I wish I really understood this now; it would save me from many pointless arguments with people who are basically good but who I force to defend moronic morality tales.

    Trampoline!

  • I wish that someone had told me that the consequence of such a thing would be losing nearly everyone I loved but that I would get through it stronger on the other side, and that even though it FEELS like it, I’m definitely not alone.

    Trampoline.

  • What advice do you wish you would’ve received when you first became an atheist?

    Having come from a heavily-religious background, I spent several years “in limbo” moving away from Christianity and God. I struggled with the concept of God and, due to my staunchly fundamentalist up-bringing, I felt guilty for questioning “His” existence. I wish that I had been told that it was okay, even normal, to question what I had believed to be reality.

    When my faith faded into nothingness, I felt alone and ashamed. I no longer wore the comforting cloak of belief and I felt exposed. My open excitement for knowledge and science was condemned by my own mother who told me I would burn in hell for my sins. (Ouch!)

    I wish I had known that the pain of separation I felt was common and that others had gone through this before. I wish I had been told by others who had lost their faith that, contrary to common religious belief, one can be a good, moral person without God. When I lost my faith, I had nothing and no one to cling to. I felt lost myself. It took several years of wandering alone in the desert of my disbelief before I felt whole again. I wish I had known then that my life without god would turn out better than I ever could have imagined.

    Trampoline.

  • Daniel Bortnick

    When I first became an atheist, I wish I had been told that there were more of us around. Getting connected to the atheist community in the web was one thing, but figuring out how to do it locally was a different thing. I looked around a lot and saw the societal benefits of religion through peoples’ communities. I couldn’t figure out how to make those same connections with fellow like minded individuals.

    Later I ended up joining the Purdue Non-Theists (and saw you when you came to speak) and a few Free-Thinkers organizations that met bi-weekly. When I moved up to Chicago, I joined the Brights but haven’t done a whole lot with them.

    Trampoline.

  • Wow, that definitely just made me not want to read the book. Sex must = love is definitely a FALSE guilt trip, completely contrary to humanist thinking. Not to mention all the OMG STDS AND PREGNANCY fearmongering. Humanist fail.

  • Vas

    @ annette et.al.
    There is no mention of orgasm whatsoever in this rant, if someone knew nothing about sex but what she spouts, sex would seem terrifying and a dirty filthy pursuit, something to be afraid of, this is the essence of fear mongering. Also sex is not just about stuffing holes with meat, there is, in fact, lots of sex that has nothing with organ to organ contact or fluid exchange or even orgasm for that matter. For instance you can, (and many do) strap your partner to a table and stick electrodes to their junk and apply current from a transcutaneous electro nerve stimulator and send them to the moon, with or without an orgasm. I have never in my life heard of an STD being transmitted in this fashion, nor a pregnancy resulting from such practices. I could go on for days and explain in great detail a thousand different scenarios that pose none of the risks she gives dire warnings about. But then again there are those who would insist that these types of activities are unethical or even immoral.

    Read Ash’s comments, he nails it right on the head, (no CBT pun intended). If you can’t understand the term “sex negative” then so be it, but to make up an invented quote of, “Do whatever the hell you want, all that pregnancy/STD/emotional cost stuff doesn’t exist. Sex is good, always. Always. Always. There is never any possibility for problems.” demonstrates that you may be of the forces of sexual repression. This is how you choose to portray people that believe that sex is fun, positive,and not a big deal? If your tiny sick emotions get underfoot and cripple you sexually, that is your problem not he world’s, a great many people are able to have sex and not weep and beat ourselves up over having done it with the wrong person, it really is no big deal, loose the guilt and loose the trauma. It’s not consensual sex that traumatizes people it’s deeply ingrained guilt promoted by articles like this one. That is the essence of sex negative rhetoric.
    V

  • Vas

    Need more info on transcutaneous electro nerve stimulators? Start here…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transcutaneous_electrical_nerve_stimulation

    Shop as usual, and avoid panic buying.
    V

  • I don’t mind the book, because I think there has to be room for a wide variety of viewpoints within humanism.

    Humanism does not equal atheism — it’s a much, much narrower subset. Atheism simply states what one does not believe. Period. Humanism starts necessarily with atheism, then builds on the statement of what we DO believe — our values and lifestance. There’s a strong emphasis on valuing human dignity and worth, empathy, compassion, ethics, deep respect for others, to be balanced with freedom from dogma.

    This gives some wide latitude. This woman has a conservative take on humanism that I may not fully agree with but is humanistically legit.

    I would be thrilled to see a whole damn bookshelf lined with humanist advice books, so many that bookshop owners have to start labeling them on a scale from conservative to wild and crazy. People can then find what resonates for them. Such diversity will definitely bring more over to our side.

    So I say, let’s not eat our young. More of us should be writing books. We don’t have to be a Dawkins or a Hitchens. We just have to express ourselves thoughtfully. Go for it, and let’s not discourage one another.

  • Roxane

    I guess a lot depends on how much you think sex that isn’t “big deal” is worth it. My experience was that it got very arid very fast. It seems to me that if the sex were completely casual and had no ethical component, it wouldn’t lead to this kind of conclusion.

    I’ve had the dubious privilege of knowing a group of young people for several years. They’ve reached the point where everyone in the group has had casual sex with everyone else of the opposite gender. The young men are shrugging their shoulders and going back to their video games, and the young women are becoming jaded and cynical about young men–all young men, including those they haven’t even been to bed with yet.

    It seems to me that a lot of what people agree to call “casual sex” often involves other agendas that may or may not be casual at all. Is sex “casual” if you’re doing it to win approval, or if you’re taking advantage of someone who is? Is it “casual” if both parties declare, “Oh, yeah, we’re just friends with benefits,” but one of the parties is really hoping for more? Is it “casual” when one person goes to bed with someone just because everyone else has? Is it “casual” if one person is using it to manipulate the other? In fact, people are so often unclear about their motives, both to themselves and to their partners, that I’m not entirely sure that there is such a thing as completely “casual sex,” let alone sex that is both casual and ethical. If you know your partner well enough that you’re both fully on board with one another’s feelings, it probably isn’t all that casual any more.

  • Cheryl

    What advice do you wish you would’ve received when you first became an atheist?

    SHUT UP!!!

    Growing up religious in the buybull belt, it was so easy to just say anything about Gawd and Jeebuz and everyone think you were absolutely right. After leaving all that behind, I realized I had no debating skills. I had always spoken from authority and not from fact. It took me a while to realize that people didn’t listen to me because they thought I was really that smart, but that I had always parroted the right words. I wish I had shut up for a while until I learned the real facts needed to rightly discuss the issues. I didn’t help people’s perception of Atheists at the time.

    TRAMPOLINE

  • Michael Hogan

    The advice I wish I had received first when becoming an atheist is not to be ashamed of it. The “A” word in our society has negative conotations but shouldn’t. One is not an immoral person, just a person who is deals with the world in a rational, evidence based, humanistic way. The way more and more people are doing each day.

    Trampoline

  • annette

    I believe in responsibility. I am of the forces of sexual oppression. *and proud!*

  • Duncan

    When I became an atheist, I was only in third grade. Every single person in the class was Christian, except for my teacher, who was Jewish. I was lucky enough to have parents and siblings who feel exactly the same. I was constantly taunted, until I learned that they always ran away with use of the Bible against them, and some big words. The best advice I can give, is to know religion, so that when someone is giving you a hard time, you can be capable of effective debate, and be knowlegable in your own absence of belief as well. Trampoline

  • Ron in Houston

    Sounds like she really offended the “free love” crowd.

    First from a scientific perspective – sex is a big deal biologically. The hormonal and neurochemical effects are profound and can easily override the rational sound thinking parts of our brains.

    Second from a legal perspective sex is a very big deal. One slip of a condom or one day of forgetting your pills and you can have up to 18 years of issues.

    Obviously some folks are able to handle these issues, but it doesn’t change the fact that sex really is a big deal.

  • Lore

    I wish someone had told me that just because I had recently figured out my own beliefs didn’t mean that everyone else was ready or trying to do the same. It was all well and good that I had rationalized my way through the troubling bits of theology I had been taught growing up, but not everybody was ready to confront those inconsistencies and me trying to force the conversation made me seem like a jerkass.

    If I could talk to former!me I would say “Chill out and wait, you will find people who want to have this conversation eventually, but this person is not them.”

    Trampoline

  • Claudia

    First from a scientific perspective – sex is a big deal biologically. The hormonal and neurochemical effects are profound and can easily override the rational sound thinking parts of our brains

    The same could be said for drinking, which is pretty much guaranteed to mess up your capacity for rational thought. However though we are told to drink responsibly, we rarely hear (beyond the age of 12) long talks about how you should avoid drinking altogether unless you are in someplace that is absolutely safe, with people you absolutely trust, and there is absolutely no risk of anything going wrong.

    Second from a legal perspective sex is a very big deal. One slip of a condom or one day of forgetting your pills and you can have up to 18 years of issues.

    Absolutely, if you consider abortion to be totally out of the question. Certainly if you are deeply pro-life and aren’t ready for a baby you should be a lot more conservative about when and with whom you have sex and how. Women who are that pro-life have a responsibility to inform men they will have vaginal intercourse with (and let’s not forget there’s many other forms of sex: anal, oral, toys, gay, post-menopausal, with zero risk of pregnancy) of their position so the male can make an informed decision. That decision could be alternate forms of sex. Those of us who do not consider a 5 week embryo a human can be more relaxed, within reason.

    Obviously some folks are able to handle these issues, but it doesn’t change the fact that sex really is a big deal.

    I don’t doubt sex can be a very big deal. I dispute that it must neccesarily be a bigger deal than any number of adult activities of moderate risk (drinking, soft drugs, adventure sports, 3rd world travel) to warrant this kind of treatment.

    As for the “free love” crack, listen, I’m fine if someone finds sex to be a Very Serious Matter that they are uncomfortable doing without a serious commitment and next-to-zero chance of anything going wrong or becoming emotionally complicated. That is every adults choice. What I do resent is being told that I’m lying or fooling myself if sex isn’t always a Very Serious Matter for me. I also think the “booga booga sex is scary” talk is, at the very least, wholly unpersuasive and something that would probably be widely derided, were it coming from a religious conservative.

  • Vas

    annette Says:
    September 7th, 2010 at 11:32 am

    I believe in responsibility. I am of the forces of sexual oppression. *and proud!*

    Glad you are so proud. I believe in responsibility as well, despite your snark. It seems clear that the implication was that you are responsible and I am not, why not just say it instead of being backhanded. Seeing as how you have confirmed that you are of the forces of sexual oppression you should like the rules set forth in the article. Have fun with that, I’ll make my own decisions about my package thank you very much. If you feel the need to paint me as irresponsible, have at it. While you are at it you can make up a quote expressing my views, maybe something about how cool sex with animals is, (or what ever strawman suites your cause) that should vilify me and put me in my place. Worry about your own junk, tell me what to do with mine and I’ll respond to your, (weak ass) attempted control. Good luck with your oppression of others.
    V

  • Skepticat

    I wish someone had told me that atheists are a pretty tough crowd and I’d better be ready to defend every single word I ever said or wrote about any subject imaginable. I would have been even more reticent about participating on these sites but, ultimately, I would have been motivated to study harder and really think through things before I made rash statements.

    Ultimately, I wouldn’t have our community any other way. It’s a refreshingly honest approach and I’ve learned that people who disagree vehemently on a subject usually have something valuable and correct to say about a part of it.

    My only regret is that following these arguments is sometimes as painful as falling off a ….

    trampoline

  • Ron in Houston

    @Claudia

    It’s amazing how much you and others psychologically project onto this passage.

    There is nothing in there about sex being “dirty” or “scary.” Hell she said absolutely nothing about whether to have sex or not.

    The premise is sex has consequences. She followed that with the premise that everything comes at a cost, there is no free lunch.

    I do happen to agree with her since I make my living helping people deal with the consequences of their “no big deal” sexual encounters.

  • Such drama in these comments!

    Advice I should have received: I can’t even imagine how great it would have felt to have had someone to go to for advice. I was suddenly alone, my world and friends having totally revolved around performing mass music at my Jesuit university. It was pre-Internet.

    (Actually, I suspected several of my Jesuit professors of atheism, but I couldn’t get them to admit it. They had a great life, beautiful rectory, gourmet cook, didn’t want to screw all that up).

    In a way, my first advice could be said to have come from the man himself, Carl Sagan, who came and spoke on campus. Although of course he didn’t come right out and say: here’s advice for atheists, we know damn well that’s exactly what he was doing. And I heard it, and took it to heart: don’t feel as if you’ve lost God, feel joy in gaining a sense of awe in nature and the universe.

    I think the best advice to me would therefore have been: a) how to connect to the humanist community, and b) how to redirect your craving for spirituality.

  • CatBallou

    “There is nothing in there about sex being …’scary.'”
    Did you even read the first sentence under “Your health”? Here it is:
    “Having sex with the wrong individual can kill you.”

    Some commenters here can’t see the forest for the trees. Yes, she’s stating facts about the health risks. And yes, one’s sexuality has emotional components. But the author’s tone is almost completely black and white, as well as prescriptive. “Sex is best when it is a loving expression…”? I’d say it’s best when your partner knows what the hell he/she is doing. But to the author, the only alternative to “true love” is having sex to keep your partner with you.

    And even in an exclusively monogamous relationship where both partners have been tested, we should “use protection anyway.” How long into my marriage can we stop with the condoms?
    When she brings in losing one’s job or being the victim of extortion…just, Wow. Really. Now it’s become absurd.

  • this book sounds horrible, judging from this passage. i agree with the early commenters, sex is a lot of things but it doesn’t always have to be “meaningful” to be properly humanist. i’m a serial nonmonogamist. all my partners know right up front what i am because i tell them. if they can’t handle it, i’m not offended and we just don’t have sex. i am honest and upfront about my sexual habits because it’s the responsible thing to do, but you’ll never convince me that there’s something wrong with one night stands. sorry, that concept is totally foreign to me and the people in my world. people should travel more, and understand that the american construct of sex relations is not found all over the globe, and indeed many cultures look down on us here, for being so prudish and often hypocritical (like religious leaders who spout abstinence and anti-homosexual garbage and turn out to be homosexuals who are having sex ).

    i guess i’m a weird case. i started out an agnostic, being raised by agnostic parents. as i got older, my interest in religion grew. i never really had a belief “system,” but over the years i entertained the possibility that some religious notions could be true. i went to grad school to find out once and for all, and studied under some of the best atheist and believing instructors in the business. what made me the hard core, 100% atheist i am today was when i realized that religion is really politics and control of the many for the enrichment of the few, it just has another name. i pretty much got all the advice i needed at this point from my atheist advisor, and the most valuable piece was “agitate.” don’t be silent about my atheism. don’t let religious nonsense go unchallenged, ever. be fearless and direct with people when they talk about belief, never be cowed or silenced by calls to “be civil and show respect for belief.”

    i think more atheists should study (if they have not yet) the relationship between religion and politics very closely. religion and propaganda have a great deal in common, and right now this nation is under assault from both.

  • Vas

    “I do happen to agree with her since I make my living helping people deal with the consequences of their “no big deal” sexual encounters.”

    Sounds to me like you have a vested interest in keeping sex and guilt joined at the hip. You should recuse yourself from this thread. Or are ethics no longer important all of a sudden?

  • Jim

    I agree and yet disagree with parts of that excerpt. For one, George Carlin’s quote. While yes, Hitler’s actions did bring tragedy to the world I don’t think Hitler’s mother completely negates the worth of those who died by Hitler’s hand (directly or indirectly). Up until the point they were put into camps or sent of to war (I include the many solders who fought bravely and died for the US and other countries in WWII against Germany in that count) those people had impacts on society. Even after capture, the people who died in the camps probably contributed to the survivors’ ability to make it through the ordeal and all of them (soldiers, citizens, captives, even Germans who stood up against Hitler) had an impact on all of us even today. They taught us that inhuman acts against anyone should not be tolerated.

    Overall though the book sounds like a good read!

    Jumping on that darn Trampoline

  • Ron in Houston

    @Cat

    The statement is true. It is again your psychological projection that it’s “scary” or even an attempt to scare people.

    As to not seeing the “forest for the trees,” she’s talking about sex globally as opposed to whether it’s a good idea for you personally to have sex with someone you know or not.

    For instance sex with prostitutes could very well kill you. Majic Johnson would be a good example of this. Further while sex with prostitutes could just be an act between two consenting adults globally it can lead to things like sex slaves and human trafficking.

  • Ron in Houston

    @Vas

    That’s stupid. Seriously stupid.

  • Will

    A lot of atheists talk about having an epiphany, their realization that the god they had once believed in wasn’t real. My epiphany was different. I had never believed in any of that stuff, and until the middle of high school I was under the impression that the only people who did were the really whacked out guys like David Koresh and Osama Bin Laden. A number of things, including the ways some people responded to the World Trade Center attack, contributed to my realization that a lot of nice, good, normal people believed in religion in a literal sense — as opposed to treating it like mythology or cultural heritage, the way I imagine most modern Greeks treat the stories about Zeus and Athena and Mount Olympus.

    My parents had both left the religions they were “born into”, but not until they were adults. They never had to go through the process of growing up in an environment where their beliefs placed them in a very small minority in their community, so they never thought to prepare me for that. That’s the advice I wish I’d gotten as a child and as a teenager: a good understanding of how common faith-based beliefs really are, and how to deal with being the only kid in your class who doesn’t have any. If I’d been better prepared, I could have spent less of my adolescence dealing with that sudden realization, and more on things teenage males are supposed to do, like awkwardly staring at girls bouncing on a TRAMPOLINE.

  • Vas

    “For instance sex with prostitutes could very well kill you. Majic Johnson would be a good example of this.”

    Magic Johnson is dead!?!

  • Ross

    I wish someone would have been able to explain to me how much differently the world would appear.

    It would have been nice to know how difficult it would be for some people to continue to respect me.

    I wish someone would’ve had me watch Qualiasoup and Theramintrees’ “Instruction Manual for Life.”

    http://www.youtube.com/user/TheraminTrees#p/u/28/kAIpRRZvnJg

    I wish I would’ve known about how completely isolating it feels to know that you are the only person in your immediate circle who thinks this way. And I wish I would’ve been able to console myself with the knowledge that no matter how pissed off or freaked out people get, they’ll either get over it or they wont.

    If they don’t, then good riddance. They can take a flaming leap from a trampoline.

  • Claudia

    Sounds to me like you have a vested interest in keeping sex and guilt joined at the hip. You should recuse yourself from this thread. Or are ethics no longer important all of a sudden?

    I think this is almost certainly an unfair or at least unsubstantiated framing of nefarious intentions. It implies hypocrisy; he doesn’t actually believe what he writes, but writes it because it’s in his economic interest. I think some evidence would be warranted to back up such a claim.

    From where I’m sitting I think it’s a far simpler as well as less accusatory explanation to think that someone who spends a lot of time dealing with people who have made bad sexual decisions is going to have a naturally slanted view of sex towards it being a very serious affair with a high probability of messing up your life. If most of your information about sexual relations involve by definition unwanted situations, it’s going to affect your worldview. I happen to think it makes him somewhat sex negative (“free love people”, “pshycologically projecting” etc.), but I don’t see anything nefarious.

    As for this post not trying to scare you about sex, we’re going to have to agree to disagree about that. There are exactly two sentences portraying sex as a good thing in this post:

    Sex is best when it is a loving expression of your feelings for another person. When you are sharing a part of yourself in a very intimate way with someone you love, it can be magical.

    Every other part of the post is dire warnings about how sex can leave you an emotional wreck, bankupt and dead. Any wiggle room in terms of the kind of sex that is acceptable is eliminated when, after reminding that Sex Can Kill, she mentions that it must ONLY happen in monogamous relationships with protection (which sort of raises the question of how we are supposed to reproduce), hence rendering any other kind of sex unacceptably risky.

  • Ron in Houston

    @vas

    Yes stupid – “could very well kill you” – since Johnson has AIDS he acquired from a prostitute my guess is he’ll die from it. Did I say he was dead?

    And why don’t we add juvenile to it. Look the author of this article was not your mommy and didn’t tell you whether to have sex or not.

    Apparently your Mommy did. When you realize that fact and stop projecting your problems with your Mother onto other things around you, you’ll live much more happily.

  • Rob

    I wish there were information on how to manage a relationship with a Christian girlfreind.

    Trampoline!

  • Ron in Houston

    someone who spends a lot of time dealing with people who have made bad sexual decisions is going to have a naturally slanted view of sex towards it being a very serious affair with a high probability of messing up your life.

    Eh, slanted perhaps. Here’s the deal. Most of them didn’t think they were “bad decisions” at the time. They obviously never pondered the likelihood they’d end up where they are today. They never factored the “consequences” or the potential “costs” into their decision to have sex.

    I simply get (what I think is) the premise of this passage. Sex has consequences. It comes at a cost.

    I was just amazed at all the people that greatly disturbed themselves over what it said.

    She stated a premise and stated facts that backed her premise. Simple rhetorical technique. Sure she injected some opinion into it, but that’s the author’s prerogative.

    Then a bunch of folks get all in a huff saying “screw her” she can’t tell me what to do.

    On one hand it’s funny in an ironic sort of way. On the other hand it does greatly reinforce what some of you have said about how deeply ingrained this fear and loathing of sex is in our culture.

  • Vas

    @ Ron,
    So after doing a quick bit of internet research I found nothing to support your implication that Johnson had sex with a prostitute. Can you provide a citation for your inference, or do you just make slanderous statements about people off hand.

    Sorry for the query but we stupid people need things spelled out for us.
    let’s recount shall we,

    1) Magic Johnson is not dead.
    2) No evidence of Magic Johnson having sex with prostitutes.

    3) My statements are stupid, seriously stupid.
    4) You advocate a system of guilt because that enables you to make a living.

    5) You are so tuned in to people that you can diagnose “Mommy issues” from an internet thread.
    6) You can look into someones past and know what their mommy told them.

    7) You like to use the word “fact” a lot as if that adds validity to your statements, even while failing to present a single fact.

    8) you know what Magic Johnson will die of… Can you tell us the date as well?
    9)You Like to call people names, do you see no irony in calling someone juvenile?

    Please teach me about ethics oh wise master.

  • @ Trampoline/Oana,
    Welcome!
    TGM

  • Ron in Houston

    Yaz

    Just f off – I don’t have the time nor the patience to deal with idiots like you.

  • Lauren

    I also prefer Greta Christina’s take on sex. Greta needs to write a book because that would be much more valuable and interesting. I thought to myself while reading.. what experience does this woman have with sex? She comes across as someone who holds very little experience or expertise. She seems sexually oppressed and obviously has a lot of negative ideas about sex. So, I googled Jennifer Hancock, couldn’t find much. If anyone else is wondering what credentials this woman has in sexual psychology, from what I could find, I can tell you NONE. This isn’t a very skeptical or realistic view of sex, just unnecessary propaganda. She holds a very maudlin viewpoint.

    “Anyone who tells you that sex is no big deal is either lying or isn’t doing it right.”

    Or.. “I’m discrediting anyone who tells you that sex isn’t ALWAYS a big deal.”

    “Sex is best when it is a loving expression of your feelings for another person. When you are sharing a part of yourself in a very intimate way with someone you love, it can be magical. If, however, you are having sex to keep your partner with you, then when (not if) they leave you, you will be miserable.”

    Or.. “If you have sex to try keep your partner, sex will be the reason they left you, and you will be guilty.” WTF?! From my experience, I’ve had one-night stands that were out of this world, and I’ve had boyfriends where the sex left much to be desired.. that’s what’s up.

    “Having sex with the wrong individual can kill you.”

    TRUST NO ONE!! SEX=DEATH! OR WORSE, PREGNANCY!!!!

    “Do you want sex badly enough to lose your job, or get extorted by a spurned lover who is threatening you?”

    Did anyone else lol when they read that?

    “Don’t develop unrealistic expectations for yourself or your partners through the irresponsible use of pornography or other forms of sexually fantasy.”

    Irresponsible use of pornography? Be careful not to strain anything. Personally, I got all my best moves watching porn. I’m pretty sure this woman is just a prude. Without a doubt, not appropriate for adults, but I can’t even agree with using this language with an adolescent group because I think we should be honest with young people. We shouldn’t set unrealistic goals or try to manipulate them with fear. There was definitely a good dose of fearmongering here. I did a healthy amount of eye-rolling throughout the entire text, and I’m going to pass on this book.

  • siveambrai

    I have to agree with @Claudia’s most recent statement (that I can see). The tone used in this piece has serious implications that sex is a scary and potentially negative experience. The only time it is shown to be positive limits the entire experience to a small subset of monogamous, heterosexual relationships.

    As others have said the author excludes many different forms and types of sexual relations that are just as fulfilling or enjoyable that do not carry the same consequences. Also there is a bit of a bias towards heterosexual relationships within the piece as a whole. Most of this comes across in the first section of the piece.

    As a general statement I feel that the second section is much better written as an actual explanation of humanists views on sexuality. I would have preferred to see the author expand upon that section more and take a more balanced views towards the rewards vs. risks of the adult sexual experience.

    As one commenter stated this is only one person’s point of view on the matter. And I agree that we need more authors in this area. The problem we face is that since there are so few authors currently writing in this area that the views expressed carry more weight and importance. When those views are biased or based upon negative interpretations of natural experiences (many of which were developed in fundamental christian groups) the authors tone becomes problematic.

    As someone else said I think Greta Christina would have a lot to say on this subject. Hemant I think you could repair some of the damage that your earlier comment caused with your readers by using this as an opportunity to start a discussion about this topic at the website. You came across as very dismissive but I think after reading many of these comments it is apparent that your readers care very deeply about this topic. Perhaps you could have Greta write a guest post or open up some forum for structured discussion about the topic (not my blog obviously just a suggestion).

  • Thegoodman

    Do your research and believe little of what others tell you. Your own religious thoughts (or doubts) are very personal in the beginning. Seek objective information about the holes you see in the religious teachings you are familiar with.

    Noah’s Ark was a big point for me early in my atheism. 1 boat with all the animals on it just seemed absurd. While we can’t prove that Jesus did or did not rise from the grave, we can certainly prove that all the animals on earth cannot fit into 1 wooden boat.

    “Trampoline”

  • Vas

    “Just f off – I don’t have the time nor the patience to deal with idiots like you.”

    Oh ouch I’m rebuffed.
    Being an abusive prick trumps everything anyone else says. Now I’m an idiot. Funny how you had the time to make libelous statements but when called out on it you suddenly don’t have any time. I get the feeling you might be a clinical physiologist, so hows the pseudo-science biz treating you, is that where you got your notion of what a fact is.

    Listen I’m not real fond of you either, and not just because of this thread but because of many past threads as well, and while this is all well and good and you may feel the same about me, I fail to understand what’s the deal with the playground insults. They are utterly without substance. You make blanket accusations about anyone who disagrees with your view, claiming without any substance that they are, stupid, idiots, juvenile, and “psychologically project[ing]” things onto the text, what a crock. You make other wild claims and then seem surprised when you are called out on them and asked for citation.
    In the end the best you can muster is “pulling a Cartmen”…”Screw you guys, I’m going home”. Pretty weak sauce if you ask me.

  • Thegoodman

    I agree with many of the sentiments that the author is a bit naive in her writing. I feel like I just read a piece of literature on the Sex Education table at a Junior High School.

    Sex is as important to an individual as he/she wants it to be. Sometimes people want to get laid, sometimes they want to live dangerously, sometimes they want to make a baby, sometimes they want to further deepen a bond with a person. Sex can be any, all, or none of these things. It is exactly what you want it to be.

    “Anyone who tells you that sex is no big deal is either lying or isn’t doing it right.”

    Anyone who says the above statement is lying or doesn’t grok sex.

  • siveambrai

    @Ron Thank you for clarifying your point in your second to last comment. I’m glad to know that you understand why some people are upset about the way this was written.

    As to the ones who are “all in a huff saying “screw her” she can’t tell me what to do.” Not everyone is able to make a clear point about their feelings and rationale on the internet. In particular, when a topic is as emotional and close to home as sexuality this can often be a lot harder.

    I think the difficulty I have with the way this is written comes from the fact that it places sex within a moral binary. There’s good sex and there’s bad sex. It reaffirms the culture of fear that makes have accurate and careful discussions about sex with others or children difficult. Our current culture about sex pushes people to have sex for the wrong reasons and without thinking and then punishes them with social shaming or guilt when they give in to the social pressure.

    Changing how we discuss and view sex as a culture, much of the goal of the sex positive movement, actually seeks to help make your job easier. Instead of giving in to mindless passion like society encourages it helps to encourage mindful sexuality. You develop your sexuality as you develop sexually. Teens are given accurate, appropriate, and complete information about sex when they need it so that they can make informed (and hopefully better) decisions. In areas where this is done at least partially there are reduced numbers of STDs and teen pregnancies (Sociological images has a great post about this right now)

    Addressing the actual question in this post: I wish I had known how to handle the guilt of feeling like I was letting down my family. Particularly since I was raised Catholic I dealt with a lot of guilt personally that made my letting go of my faith quite difficult. I know I will feel a lot more when I come out to my parents and other family members which is one reason that I have avoided doing so.

    Trampoline

  • Ron in Houston

    Vas

    Here’s how you started with me:

    Sounds to me like you have a vested interest in keeping sex and guilt joined at the hip. You should recuse yourself from this thread. Or are ethics no longer important all of a sudden?

    I’m simply not going to take the time or effort to respond to that sort of stupidity. I’m also not going to take the time and effort to respond to any other drivel that comes from your mouth.

    So yeah, just F off.

  • Claudia

    I wish there were information on how to manage a relationship with a Christian girlfreind.

    Well, there are a few things out there. Try this, and this and this and also this 🙂

  • Ron in Houston

    @siveambrai

    Very well said and a very nice comment that made me very much understand where you’re coming from in this discussion.

    I do understand why people got upset and how that can read into what the author said. It doesn’t change the fact that their upset is due to their own personal experiences and that they are bringing those into their interpretation of the passage.

    The book is about happiness and the passage is about the consequences and costs of sex. The premise as I see it is if you want to be happy, weigh the costs and consequences of sex before you do it.

    Most of the folks I interact with are highly unhappy about the consequences of their sexuality. I can’t speak for any of them as to whether they weighed the costs or consequences or not. I suspect not.

  • siveambrai

    @Ron

    I agree with your grasp of what the book it about. I guess I just wish there was more there. Admittedly, this is just an excerpt from a single chapter of the entire book. So hopefully upon reading the entire thing this whole discussion will be moot.

    As to whether people have considered the consequences “sometimes the best laid plans of mice and men…” 🙂

  • Vas

    and just before that you said…

    I do happen to agree with her since I make my living helping people deal with the consequences of their “no big deal” sexual encounters.”

    You said you agree since this is how you earn money, it’s a conflict.
    then you fire off this little gem,

    “It’s amazing how much you [Claudia] and others psychologically project onto this passage.

    There is nothing in there about sex being “dirty” or “scary.” “

    next on the hit parade is…

    “That’s stupid. Seriously stupid.”

    You do have a conflict of interest, you have a horse in this race.
    Listen smartass do me a favor and please please please don’t “take the time or effort to respond” if it’s so taxing to you. I will call you out on your unsupported statements, dogma, and slanderous bullshit when I see it.
    And what the hell is with the F off bullshit? The words you are looking for are fuck off as if calling people names and then using F instead of fuck somehow makes you a polite guy.
    Now shut up and sit down or man up and support your slanderous statements.

  • Ron in Houston

    Vas

    Add pathetic to the list.

    Besides, it’s not slander if it’s true.

  • Delcycer

    I wish someone had told me that I’d have to figure out the “why” part of living now, or warned me that you don’t actually need a reason to keep living, it just happens.

    Trampoline

    BTW, I have since resolved the above issues; they were my own personal long dark tea-time of the soul, to quote Douglas Adams–no suicide intervention required!

  • Vas

    True?
    Like a fact?
    And I should take you at your word? Mr

    “I’m also not going to take the time and effort to respond to any other drivel that comes from your mouth.”

    Technically it’s libel since you published it. Heres a hint buckaroo you just can’t say it’s true, you have to prove it’s true and you can’t, hearsay is not the same as fact. Did you know that making statements like that puts Hemant in risk of a lawsuit, it’s happening a lot lately and judges are making websites turn over names of those libeling others and the are ending up in court. And the websites are loosing big time.

    I’ll say it again, I don’t like you, you are dishonest, you tell lies, (as clearly documented on this thread) and that strikes me as one of your better qualities. Good cop, bad cop, and punkass all rolled into one, just how many Ron’s are there?

  • Gordon

    I would like someone to have shown me how to formally defect from the catholic church.

    Luckily for me I found countmeout.ie on the internet a few months later.

    Trampoline.

  • mousefeathers

    *ducks while typing*

    Trampoline!

  • Ron in Houston

    @Yaz

    Awe – we agree on something – I don’t like you either. Now come here and lets get into a circle and sing Kum Bye Ya. We can even change the words to get rid of the “my lord” references.

    So you finally wised up to the fact that you were showing your ignorance by calling what is legally known as libel, slander.

    However, the plaintiff in a libel case carries the burden of proving that a statement is untrue. So, wrong buckaroo! Once again, I reiterate “stupid.”

    And buckaroo it doesn’t make a lot of sense for someone to sue Hemant when all they need to is subpoena his log files. Besides, for all your concern trolling over Hemant, if someone alleges I libeled them, I’ll be happy to give him all my contact information.

    So you don’t worry your stupid troll head anymore buckaroo.

    Now go off I think the donkey out on the back 40 needs you to service them.

  • kyrosion

    I wish that someone had told me that I didn’t have to hide. I know that seems kind of pathetic, especially with the current trend of “You’re not alone” adverts, but I was young, and afraid of my overwhelmingly Catholic parents. I hid my nonbelief for years before I finally came out of the religion closet to my family, and while they’re still praying for me and trying to get me back on my knees in a pew, at least they didn’t kick me out of the house like I expected.

    That said, I also wish someone had shown me how to craft a more elegant argument, so that when my mother told me that I couldn’t be an atheist because I couldn’t prove that god doesn’t exist, I could have done more than just stand there dumbfounded and sputtering at the hypocrisy.

    Trampoline.

  • Justin

    “Holding a grudge is like drinking posion and waiting for the other person to die.”

    I was a very angry atheist for a good year after shedding my faith (was young 20’s at the time). While I think anger is often justified and often useful, I’m not so sure it should be the default. Wasted alot of energy mentally and verbally railing against people that would never know or care!

    Trampoline!

  • Jonny

    I really wish someone had told me that the guilt you feel inside, and the guilt others make you feel will eventually fade away. And at the twilight of this guilt you will feel a renewed sense of being as an individual with morals grounded in reason and care of others. I love trampolines.

  • Philip

    What I wish I’d been told?

    I thought it would be the biggest deal in the world, that I would lose all my relationships because of it. I wish someone would have told me that sometimes the worst consequences don’t always happen when coming out.

    Trampoline

  • cathy

    Why am I not surprised that it is a man who decides to defend slut shaming sex negativity? These notions hurt women in particular, they have been hearing them all of their lives as justifications to control their sexualities. Queer people also get this shit a lot. There is a HUGE difference between a fact based discussion about sexuality and a rant about how monogamy is a precious flower and sluts deserve to die of aids. Btw, one of my dearest friends is HIV positive and the victim blaming from people like Ron is really cruel and unhelpful, both to people with the disease and those who are negative. The kind of vicious stigma Ron perpetuates about people with HIV literally kills millions (it prevents testing, prevents research, prevents treatment funding). Slut shaming kills people with HIV, it kills people who become pregnant and have to resort to self abortion (because why give abortion rights to people, after all, if they weren’t slutty sluts, they wouldn’t need one). I have been a planned parenthood volunteer, a peer sex ed educater, the source of free condoms for family and friends, and a shoulder to cry on after an HIV diagnosis. Instead of assuming that people with STDs or unwanted pregnancies deserve to have bad things happen to them because they have commited the evils of sex (especially extramarital or queer sex), I try to make a world where sexual people of all stripes are free, safe, supported, and treated with love. That’s how you help people, not slut shaming, sex negative hate.

    (Jen over at blaghag has weighed in on this issue too, noting that it is sex negative and shaming. She has some helpful links about studies about casual sex and comprehenisve sex ed vs abstinence until marriage fearmongering http://www.blaghag.com/2010/09/apparently-even-humanists-can-be-sex.html).

    Also, for anyone interested in the history of AIDs victim representation and how sex negativity and homophobia kill, I highly recommend the slightly dated by brilliant anthology “AIDS: Cultural Analysis, Cultural Activism” (it is out of print, but you might be able to find a used copy). This book came out in 88 and the articles chronicle media and social attitudes about AIDS, attitudes that Ron has so helpful carried into this century (such as the old school notion ‘the wages of sin is death’ wherein fucking is the sin and STDs the punishment, that people with HIV deserve death, that promiscuous people are inferior, filthy, and irresponsible, etc.)

  • Vas

    Ron,
    You are a real piece of work. I believe you are dead wrong on the burden of proof thing, But seeing as how you are a member of the bar I’ll defe… oh what’s that, you are not a lawyer? Just some guy with a big unsupported opinion stated as fact. NYT v Sullivan shifted the burden if the defendant was “the press” you are not, and since when do lawsuits make sense anyway. Besides Hement would be the publisher and considering the lack of TOS for this site he would be liable as well. Mock all you care too but people do sue websites and your offer to give ’em all my contact information will do nothing to stop that. Besides all that it would depend on where the case was filed as libel laws differ state to state. as usual unsupported “facts” from Ron. And more name calling, let’s add Stupid, (again) now troll, aren’t you the cleaver boy. And now you imply that that I would have sex with a donkey, real nice there, again making things up with no regard for facts whatsoever. When are you planning on dropping the H bomb there hero? The fact you are oh so self righteous is laughable.
    So how is misstating between liable and slander showing ignorance anyway? I bet you are one of those guys who berate people for typos or say how “F”ing stupid someone is if they have less than perfect grammar. “for all your concern trolling over Hemant” makes little sense, but I don’t call you stupid for writing it, It is just a blog thread after all. Keep trying to deflect there Ron, it’s the only route open to you. Still waiting on that citation about Magic Johnson screwing a prostitute.

  • Ash

    @Vas,

    I get the feeling you might be a clinical physiologist, so hows the pseudo-science biz treating you, is that where you got your notion of what a fact is.

    I’m a clinical psychologist and I think you’ve got a few things wrong here. (1) Clinical psychology is involved in gold standard scientific research that is far from pseudo. I’m sorry that you didn’t know that. I encourage you to look into the matter yourself if you are interested in the rigor that psychologists apply to their scientific efforts. I’m certain that a brief visit to the library can correct your misconceptions in this area. (2) The “biz” is primarily about treating people with serious problems, and not many get rich doing it. But thanks to the research we do, we are, as a field, getting better at it all the time. (3) I suspect that there is a weak correlation, at best, between one’s profession and one’s general level of intellectual honesty and netiquette. You were right to call him out on his issues, but then stumbled yourself by accusing clinical psychologists of being involved in pseudo-science for the motive of profit (i.e. the “biz” crack) and of being unable to understand the difference between an opinion and a fact. Bad form.

  • Ron in Houston

    @vas

    I’ll probably kick myself for continuing to engage someone as ignorant as you, but here goes.

    See moron here’s how it works. Every cause of action has elements, each of those elements must be proven in court by the plaintiff by a preponderance of the evidence.

    So instead of being stupid and acting stupid how about actually looking it up? Awe hell, I’ll give you a head start since you’re clearly impaired.

    From this site:

    While on many of these issues the burden of proof is on the plaintiff

    While they say most, rest assured the burden of proving a false statement is on the plaintiff.


    Now onto Hemant:

    Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act says:

    No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.

    So, see moron, Hemant is not the publisher. Need I make any more clear buckaroo?

    Heck don’t believe me then check out this case where someone tried to sue AOL.

    Here’s two more points for you to consider moron. If Magic Johnson comes after me, then I’ll worry about finding some cite that he had sex with prostitutes. He said he had unprotected sex with I believe his words were “thousands” of women. There was also a book by some coach (Jerry was his first name) that detailed how they’d bring girls into the locker room. Either way, I’m not overly worried about it. Your command of facts is highly suspect so just because you say it’s not so doesn’t mean that it isn’t. Besides I highly doubt Magic Johnson wants to reopen that can of worms.

    The other thing you have to consider is that I can’t libel you. Even if I actually said “Vas has sex with donkeys” it still isn’t libel? Know why? You don’t exist. I can’t libel a screen name and an avatar. However, while we’re discussing it did you actually take care of your duties?

    Now in my defense I didn’t call you out at first on your ignorance. I only called you out once you compounded your ignorance with even more ignorance. Besides, I’ve taken the time to try to educated you so you’ll STOP SHOWING your ignorance.

    Now can somebody please tell me how to get an internet Vas-ectomy?

  • Ron in Houston

    Ash

    My issues? How dare you? I don’t have “issues.”

    I have a full subscription.

  • JulietEcho

    Hemant wrote (way up-thread):

    If you and your partner(s) can handle casual sex, more power to you all. Not everyone can.

    Now, if only Jennifer Hancock had written or implied that somewhere! I agree with Claudia and others (Jen McCreight, as usual, has got a good handle on it.)

    The language and tactics both remind me strikingly of all the abstinence-only material I’ve read and heard over the years. It’s just one step back from that, in many ways.

    While I find her style a bit disturbing (too similar to the language that social conservatives use in fear-mongering), I don’t take issue with most of her content. It’s what she’s left out that’s the problem: she fails to acknowledge, even in passing, that different people have different sexual needs and feelings, and they don’t all match up with her advised protocols. She also phrases many things in misleading ways, especially regarding STDs.

    The part about the implications of porn and sexual fantasy though, has no defense. It’s pure hyped-up scaremongering, and I can only assume that she learned it from the “looking at pornography is adultery” crowd and no one corrected her. Hopefully someone sends her the links to Greta Christina and Dan Savage!

  • Ash

    @Ron,

    I do understand why people got upset and how that can read into what the author said. It doesn’t change the fact that their upset is due to their own personal experiences and that they are bringing those into their interpretation of the passage.

    That’s quite an assumption there. It seems to me that people are simply disagreeing with the author, they aren’t crying at their desks. Assuming that people respond to such things only because of past, unresolved injuries is both condescending and dismissive. Isn’t it at least as likely that people are so vocal because their take on the author’s words goes against their rationally held principles?

    I myself am “upset” (i.e. in acute disagreement) with the passage, not because I am projecting unresolved issues onto it, but because I actually disagree with her underlying message. I sincerely believe that her views on this matter are not particularly humanistic, and fall within a too-narrow range of what she considers “good” sex (e.g. only as an expression of love between committed partners stringently using protection). This bothers me because I want humanism in general to project a sex-positive attitude (and yes, along with a fair treatment on responsibility and potential consequences), and this passage doesn’t cut it.

    Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

  • Ron in Houston

    Ash

    I don’t disagree with anything you said. However, I’d invite you to go back and review some of the comments.

    Some quotes “fearmongering” “oh fuck you,” or “scary.” Then I get accused of “a vested interest in keeping sex and guilt joined at the hip.”

    Eh, I don’t know about you but those sound to me like highly charge emotional statements by people who likely have a lot of anger or guilt from their pasts.

    Your comment was the rational one. You detailed exactly how you felt the message could have been better conveyed without a lot of emotional hyperbole.

    However, what do I know, I’m not a psychologist.

  • CatBallou

    Geez, Ron seems to be psychoanalyzing complete strangers here, but I still maintain that “Sex can kill you” qualifies as an attempt to scare people. The author doesn’t actually have to use the word “scary.” Maybe Ron isn’t capable of drawing simple inferences? To assume that this is a psychological “projection” on my part is asinine. Just as you have a perspective based on your profession, Ron, I have one based on mine. I analyze and edit text. This is bad text–badly written and badly conceived. One might almost say it was badly intended.
    “Sex can kill” is a clumsy oversimplification. Sex is not fatal. One can indeed contract a potentially fatal disease, but that’s not really the same thing, is it! And I’m not just splitting hairs: “Eating can kill” isn’t the same as “eating contaminated food can kill” or “you can choke if you accidentally inhale your food.”
    Unfortunately, without reading the rest of the book, we can’t tell whether this quoted passage is taken out of the context of more positive, or at least accurately neutral, descriptions of sex. But the text we do have smacks of the warnings given to adolescent girls to “save themselves.”

  • Ron in Houston

    Cat

    “Sex can kill you” isn’t what she said. That’s what you created in your head. What she said was “Sex with the WRONG person can kill you.” That’s a true statement. It’s happening in Africa at prodigious rates.

    Personally, I don’t see how “sex with the wrong person can kill you” is a scary statement. It’s simply a truth. It is simply a fact which supports the premise in big letters at the top of the article “The Costs and Consequences of Sex.”

    I stick with my premise. The article is simply an argument that sex has costs and consequences. Trying to turn that into “fearmongering,” “scare tactics” or whatever are hyperbolic emotional responses to a mostly benign article.

    Why you and others chose to do that is what Ash would call “issues.”

  • I feel like I just read a piece of literature on the Sex Education table at a Junior High School.

    Seriously. Is it possible for a mature adult to read this excerpt and not feel condescended to? It’s like a seventh grade sex-ed textbook. I could accept it if the intended audience was 12, but it appears as if this book was written for grown ups.

    I also question what the point of this book is. There are thousands of secular self-help and advice books. There are thousands of books on sexuality that don’t bring religion into it. Is there a need for a specifically humanist book about happiness? Do people really need “practical advice” from a fellow humanist when they can get better advice from reputable secular authors who are actual experts in their fields? FWIW, this book appears to have been self-published at CreateSpace. While there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, I’m not sure of the author’s education or what kind of psychological advice she is actually qualified to give.

    What advice do you wish you would’ve received when you first became an atheist?

    Can’t answer that one. I never “became” an atheist. I’ve always been one. Honestly, I don’t know that I needed any advice. I was lucky enough to be born into a secular family and raised in a liberal and fairly secular area. Atheism just never comes up as an issue in my life. It’s not like I ever felt as if I lacked role models or mentors, although I do appreciate having an online community of fellow atheists to talk (and commiserate) with about various religious and political issues.

  • Eileen

    I wish someone had told me that it is practically impossible to have a good relationship with someone who believes in a god, if you do not! Just like the alcoholic who says, “hey, my drinking won’t affect your life”; the person who thinks his mythology won’t eventually dominate the relationship, just hasn’t got a clue. Trampoline!

  • Vas

    The other thing you have to consider is that I can’t libel you. Even if I actually said “Vas has sex with donkeys” it still isn’t libel? Know why? You don’t exist. I can’t libel a screen name and an avatar. However, while we’re discussing it did you actually take care of your duties?

    I never said you libeled me I said real nice there and that you were as usual making things up. And just because someone won’t come after you you think that makes it OK to slag someone, again real nice. So you think it’s just fine to say made up shit about someone and demand that they prove you wrong? Really? So now we have to prove there is no teapot or it exists by default and prove there is no God or he exists by default and I have to prove I don’t have sex with donkeys or that is true as well? Really I’m not the one making wild accusation. I am currently following a libel action against a certain website, I’ll see how that works out. Oh and spare me the “education” if I need asshole lessons you’ll be the first to know.

    What a vile person you are, I see you are still winning friends on this thread.
    Keep up the hateful rants there pal.

    @ Ash,
    Sure I stumbled on that one. I have serious misgivings about your field, the more I look into it the less I like it. Changing pathology due to politics is kind of strange if you ask me, and the past crimes of the field (ECST for one) should scare the crap out of anyone. hell the DSM still insists that Paraphilia is pathological, that BDSM is an illness for Christ’s sake, will the political climate change that as well? Didn’t homosexuals fall under this heading once upon a time. Too much of the field relies on a normative standard. Also I can’t help but reflect on the McMartin preschool debacle and the repressed memory hysteria that fueled it and destroyed the lives and reputations of innocent hard working people.And let’s not leave out the Christian Psychologists, fine lot that one, or are they no true Scotsman? Anyway let me say here and now, I apologize for disparaging remarks about your field, if anyone thought it was a statement of fact I would like to clarify that it is merely my opinion. Despite your claim I do know the difference. Also I’m aware that that was a weak apology, we obviously have different opinions but that is no excuse for slagging off an entire profession that has a great many people who believe sincerely they are doing good for other people. But hey chiropractors think they are the gold standard of science as well, again someone with a horse in the race. In any case it was indeed bad form, I was called out on it and I deserved it. Sorry to dig my heals in on this, maybe I’ve gotten bad information in the past. I will do some reading on the subject to see if I might decide to change my thinking on the subject.Perhaps you could suggest something as my selections are bound to be influenced by my obvious bias.
    Cheers,
    V

  • Eileen

    I also wish I had had enough sense to go looking for the atheist/humanist connections I wanted years ago. I’d tell everyone to get out of their closets and find their own tribe if I was asked for advice about being a modern atheist.

  • Eh, I don’t know about you but those sound to me like highly charge emotional statements by people who likely have a lot of anger or guilt from their pasts.

    Huh. Well, I think the excerpt was fear-mongering (not all of it, but the parts about losing your job, extortion, and “irresponsible” pornography and sexual fantasy were downright bizarre), and I’m about the most conservative person you could find when it comes to sexuality. I’ve never engaged in casual sex or had a one-night-stand. Yet this excerpt strikes me as anything but sex positive. It also comes across as quite patronizing and condescending, as if the author is preaching to a class of twelve-year-olds.

  • Ron in Houston

    @Vas

    I didn’t come here accusing people of inane things and questioning their ethics.

    Then you kept it going. Now you’re whining because I’m mean to you? Seems more than a bit disingenuous to me moron.

    I love it. You’re on here trying to defend the stupid crap you said about clinical psychology? Suddenly when confronted by someone else with your moron-ness you try to justify? Have some balls buckaroo. Defend your initial statement!

    You’re a moron – pure and simple. You dig holes for your ignorant self and then try to get out of them.

    Since we’re all into “fact checking” what suit are you following? What court is in in? What jurisdiction? Have you read the “pleadings?” I’ll be if you had you wouldn’t be making stupid statements like the plaintiff doesn’t have the burden of proving that a statement is false.

    Come on Vas – inquiring minds want to know. Meanwhile, I’m still looking for any information on an internet Vas-ectomy.

  • Elena Villarreal

    I agree with Ron that the severity of the response to this passage comes from people’s past experiences. But it also comes from the not unreasonable assumption that Hancock’s thinking comes, deep down, from a place of arbitrary judgment and disgust, of women and men. Her advice about monogamous, loving relationships and pornography especially has no rational basis. And the attitudes embodied by this advice have made it acceptable to impose shame and double standards on women into the present day. So, yes, I am angry at Hancock’s self-righteous participation in her own and my oppression, so to speak. Because I’m sick of it all, in the past and now.

    When someone tells you that the way you want to live just isn’t the way to do it, just because, “fuck you,” or the same sentiment in one of its milder forms, is the only thing you can say. I was intemperate, but people need to understand that this kind of moderate-sounding, mainstream advice is actually very serious and hurtful.

    And kudos to Jennifurret (Blag Hag?) for keeping your cool and sense of humor when I could not. I heart you!

  • Ron in Houston

    Anna

    Honestly I can’t disagree with anyone’s interpretation of a creative work.

    However, her facts about “loss of job,” “extortion,” and the other negative things are very real. I’ve seen them happen.

    I suspect I have the benefit (or perhaps the curse) of having the benefit of many, many years of practical experience on these issues. In other words, I admit to being an “old fart.” I also have the benefit of “war stories” that would curl many peoples hair.

    Things like prostitution and pornography are mixed bags. Clearly sometimes those things are done by fully informed adults who do them very voluntarily. However, I’ve actually seen sex slaves. I’ve never had a case with a child pornographer but I’ve had cases where it’s been alleged.

    It is a fact those countries where prostitution is legal have a high incidence of human trafficking.

    So no, please, no one tell me that sex doesn’t involve consequences or costs.

    That may not fit in the worldview of a bunch of you young middle class folks, but to deny its existence is to stick your head way, way into the sand.

  • Tim

    Well seeing as I never was anything other than an atheist its hard to think of something that I would have liked to know when becoming one. I think everyone one should be told how awesome they are when throwing off the faith shackles. Because it is a tough and sometimes heart breaking thing to do. They should be told that they are part of the cosmic pot luck that is everything which is more amazing than only being part of a very small part of the universe that their faith said they were. We are cousins of stars and siblings of all life and that is pretty damn amazing if you ask me. They should be told that they’re still extremely special because they are unique and smart enough to realize this. That they have the capacity to learn mysteries their faith can’t even imagine and a body that can feel and experience the world around them that can bring more joy than any prayer ever could. And if they don’t believe it they should just try to jump on a trampoline without smiling.

  • coyotenose

    Having begun to recognize nonsense around me in middle school, in the South around 1987, I wish someone would have told me, “You have rights and morals equal to anyone else’s.”

    Instead I got a school administration and librarian who tried to cause trouble for me at home, who demanded I tell them if I went to church, and who somehow got every book I had ever checked out removed from the shelves at the school library AND the local community college.

    Come to think of it, I would have also liked to have heard, “When they try to bully your rights from a position of authority, feel free to tell them to screw off and dare them to push it.”

    Trampoline

  • I just want to quickly address some things. First, this is an excerpt. Which means by definition, it is out of context.

    You didn’t get to read the part where I state that for sake of brevity I am going to write in heterosexual monogoamous terms but that people should feel free to mentally translate gender terms and numeric terms to suit their preferences because we Humanists don’t care about that aspect of things, we only care that the relationships are consensual.

    You are also making assumptions that I don’t care for pornography without having read what I actually wrote about it. My only concern about pornography is that some people don’t seem to know it is a form of fantasy and “irresponsbile use” of it means to me that you are treating even the most obvious pornographic fantasies as being somehow factually based. And whenever you treat fantasy as if it is reality you will run into problems. Hence my comment about responsbile vs irresponsible use of pornography.

    For those who are adamant about the negative vs postive view of sex issue – you missed my point entirely. You can do anything you want. I don’t care. You are the one who has to deal with the consequences, which may be nothing, or could be devasting. The point is that you can mitigate your risks by taking full responsibility for the potential consequences before deciding how to act in any given situation (not just sexual)and that this approach creates better outcomes.

    Keep on keeping on – I have found this debate very stimulating and interesting.

  • Vas

    Have some balls buckaroo. Defend your initial statement!

    Sure You make money off of guilt. Without guilt you have to change professions. You said you agreed with the article because you make you living dealing with sex and people damaged by it.

    I do happen to agree with her since I make my living helping people deal with the consequences of their “no big deal” sexual encounters.

    I love it. You’re on here trying to defend the stupid crap you said about clinical psychology? Suddenly when confronted by someone else with your moron-ness you try to justify? Have some balls buckaroo. Defend your initial statement!

    And the abuse continues… Unlike you sometimes I do say things I shouldn’t. things that are unkind and smear whole groups. Listen I still think clinical psychology is pseudo science, But I shouldn’t have used that to attack you, you riled me up with your armchair psychology and I lashed out.Man you are just a bore, truly a bore. So go ahead and have the final word, call me more names, claim a victory. Man it must be nice to be so smart, what an absolute hero you are. You truly are a punk, how I would love to sit in a bar and watch what happen when you start calling someone a donkey fucking moron, But I’ll bet dimes to doughnuts you lack the stones. I have the balls to eat a little crow now and then, but no not you, you must be right always even when you are wrong.
    as to this…

    Since we’re all into “fact checking” what suit are you following? What court is in in? What jurisdiction? Have you read the “pleadings?” I’ll be if you had you wouldn’t be making stupid statements like the plaintiff doesn’t have the burden of proving that a statement is false.

    Yeah I’ve read every word of it and spent many hours discussing the implications of it. But seeing as how I dislike you I’ll offer zero information to you. I’ve made no wild claims, just said I was following a case, I owe you nothing and that’s what you’ll get from me. You make as good a lawyer as you do a psychologist.
    Man did I mention what a bore you are. Just a mean person, so full of hate, and yet for some reason I feel bad for you. As much as I dislike you I still feel a profound sadness after a day of interacting with you. It’s as if some little black acid rain cloud hovering over me. Seeing as how this has become pointless… I’m Audi.

  • Ash

    Changing pathology due to politics is kind of strange if you ask me, and the past crimes of the field (ECST for one) should scare the crap out of anyone. hell the DSM still insists that Paraphilia is pathological, that BDSM is an illness for Christ’s sake, will the political climate change that as well?

    Medical doctors have also done horrendous things in the past, but it’s still a good idea to go to the clinic with a serious illness. Our field has rigorous ethical guidelines and we enforce them vigorously. Politics are a part of nearly every profession, but clinical psychology is far more free of it than you seem to imply here. Do keep in mind that the DSM is created primarily by psychiatrists, not psychologists, and is more about their association with the pharmaceutical industry than it is with “politics”. It seems like your judgment of my field is more based on the bygone past and popular criticism rather than on actual conditions (for example, BDSM, in itself, is not considered pathological by any psychologist I know).

    Too much of the field relies on a normative standard.

    Although there is much to learn, clinical psychology isn’t about making people “normal”, it is about relieving distress, and we are developing a clear idea of what this looks like in the brain. Things like trauma, PTSD, depression, bipolar, psychosis, and other diagnoses are symptoms of real problems, not just variations from the norm.

    But hey chiropractors think they are the gold standard of science as well, again someone with a horse in the race.

    This comparison can be levied against any scientifically-informed field and it would be equally meaningless. It says nothing about the quality of research being done in the field.

    Sorry to dig my heals in on this, maybe I’ve gotten bad information in the past. I will do some reading on the subject to see if I might decide to change my thinking on the subject. Perhaps you could suggest something as my selections are bound to be influenced by my obvious bias.

    I appreciate your curiosity. A great overview of the brain can be had in Daniel Siegel’s “The Developing Mind”. Excellent journals that feature scientific studies related to my field include “American Psychologist” (bit.ly/aCDSGA), “The Annual Review of Psychology” (bit.ly/d403EX), and “The Journal of Clinical Psychology” (bit.ly/c4u7h6). Some other relevant websites: bit.ly/c8ginI and bit.ly/JSQT1 . Really, a quick Google search will lead you to many sources.

  • I wish someone would’ve told me that being an atheist doesn’t mean that you have to be lonely. You just have to look harder to find community…

    Thanks for the great blog suggestion!

    trampoline

  • Ron in Houston

    @Vas

    Unlike Ash who is a clinical psychologist I can say this: FU

    Again, you’ve shown how much of a moron you are by assuming that I “make money off of guilt.” Wrong moron. Unlike Ash who is still being nice to you despite saying moronic statements against “clinical psychologists” I’m a LAWYER.

    See, Ash feels that his clinical standards means that he shouldn’t do harm to you. I don’t want to do harm to you, but your behavior has reached the point where frankly I don’t care.

    You’ve proved over and over that you’re a moron. You made false statements against clinical psychologists and then tried to “retract” those statements.

    His idea of dealing with you is to reason with you and to help you understand that what you say isn’t true. My idea of reality is to show that you’re a fricking moron, that nothing you say should be trusted. And that any one who believes you should have their head examined.

    Yes. I’m blunt. Yes, I’m an “asshole.” I plead guilty to those sins and more However, do they or don’t they reflect reality?

    You came here questioning my ethics. I ignored you for a long time. You’ve now “sown the seeds” of your behavior. Stop whining you little puke.

  • Goodness, Ron, you threw a whole lot of things in there (prostitution, sex slavery, and child pornography) that were not part of the original equation. I didn’t mention them, and neither did the author of the book.

    The thing I took issue with was the following statement:

    Don’t develop unrealistic expectations for yourself or your partners through the irresponsible use of pornography or other forms of sexually[sic] fantasy.

    I’m glad that Jennifer visited this thread to clarify what she meant, but at first glance, it came across to me as very negative. I don’t think sexual fantasies (in and of themselves) are a problem, although someone can certainly run into trouble if he or she decides to act on certain fantasies, primarily those that would involve illegal activity. Using pornography, too, should not be assumed to be inherently dangerous. Unless one is suffering from a sexual addiction or is confused between fantasy and reality, there is little chance of any sort of serious problem.

    I don’t know your line of work, but it sounds like you may deal with sex addicts or sex offenders. If so, don’t you think you have a rather unrealistic view of the likelihood of danger? For instance, extortion. What on earth could someone be doing that sexual contact would result in extortion? Unless they’re engaging in something illegal, I can’t imagine how this could possibly come up. If it did happen, it would happen to a tiny portion of the population. I’m sure that 99.999% of people conduct their sexual lives without ever encountering the possibility of extortion.

    There are always consequences to actions, but, IMO, focusing on very unlikely dangers (loss of job, extortion) is a type of fear-mongering. Of course, as Jennifer mentioned, this was only an excerpt, so my criticism is confined to what she wrote here. It’s certainly possible that the rest of the chapter takes a less negative approach.

  • ckitching

    So no, please, no one tell me that sex doesn’t involve consequences or costs.

    Who has said that? I don’t know that anyone here has said that sex has no consequences or costs. That’s one hell of a strawman you’re building.

    I’m going to join the chorus complaining about this book passage. It’s far too similar to the “abstinence-only” sex education programs that have been an unmitigated disaster. An inescapable part of our existence is the fact that we are sometimes driven by instinct instead of rational thought, and making an informed decision means we need to be aware of this, as well. Making the key message, “Don’t have sex except in marriage (or long-term monogamous relationships)” is fairly unrealistic, as experimenting with sex is pretty much inevitable.

    However, this doesn’t mean anyone is endorsing the idea of sleeping with everyone and anyone with compatible (or incompatible, depending on preference) genitals.

  • JulietEcho

    For those still reading and still wondering, Jennifer has no background or degrees in fields related to sexual health, psychology, psychiatry, etc. She has done quite a few impressive things, but they seem to be mostly related to technology, animal welfare, and linguistics.

    I feel bad for saying this, but if what Jennifer said here is true (that in context, this excerpt is only meant to be applied to a specific sub-set of individuals), then I think that at best, it’s poorly written. If the part about pornography and fantasy, for instance, was meant to address unrealistic expectations, more specific information was necessary. Unless there is supplemental information about STDs, then the writing certainly does come across as fear-mongering and exaggeration. To paraphrase another commenter, a few “in rare cases” and “for some people” clauses could go a long way toward improving the piece.

  • Annie

    Don’t have sex on a trampoline.

    Seriously I can’t think of any advice I wish I’d have gotten. I read a lot while I was deconverting and hung out on blogs a ton. Plus my then-fiance (now husband) was an atheist.

  • JesseS

    I wish I been told one simple thing when I first started losing my faith;

    “Ethics. Are. Hard.”

    Everyone makes it out like living an ethical life is easy, just ‘do the right thing’, but the right is almost never easy to determine.

    My close friend is being really irresponsible with drugs because she is depressed, do I come down on her hard to try and get her off them, or do I try and support her through the underlying depression and hope that as it lifts she weans herself off the drugs. Do I do both? Is it even POSSIBLE to do both? Do I tell friends and family to expand her circle of help, or is that a breach of trust?

    Note: I’m not actually asking here, I’m just trying to illustrate that there generally aren’t simple and clean answers.

    So yah, I’ve dealt with situations like the one above, and easier ones, and much, much harder and scarier ones, and I made it through as best I could, and usually smarter afterwards, but I do some days wish someone had sat me down and just said “dude, this thinking for yourself shit is hard!”

    That would’ve been the best piece of advice I could ask for!

    Trampoline.

  • Claudia

    @Jennifer Hancock,

    I can easily accept that there can be context that could make this passage seem a little less extreme. However I can’t for the life of me fathom how your passage about STIs could be contextualized into something realistic. You quite literally state that sex should be with your monogamous partner, after STD testing and using protection anyway. The context of the phrase points strongly to you meaning “condoms” when you say protection. This means that, even when your partner is clean and even though you have an expectation of monogamy, mistrust should be the norm.

    I’d love to see an explanation of how that isn’t what you actually said or another passage that transforms it into something reasonable, but as it stands currently I have to say that at the very least, this was a very unfortunate passage to choose in the promotion of the book.

  • GSW

    Currently this book is only available in Europe as an e-book (Amazon/Kindle).

    Are there any plans to make it available over here in the old country?

  • @Claudia- the chapter starts with a paragraph stating the Humanist position on sex via the Sexual Bill of Rights published in 1976. The section you have starts a few pages later.

    But here is what it says “The purpose of this document (the AHA’s Sexual Bill of Rights) was ‘to enhance the quality of sexuality by emphasizing its contributions to a significant life.’ and that ‘human beings should have the right to express their sexual desires and enter into relationships as they see fit, as long as they do not harm others or interfere with their rights to sexual expression.’ ‘This new sense of freedom, however, should be accompianied by a sense of ethical responsibility.'”

    I conclude the chapter by saing “Choose your partners wisely. And always approach sex as a responsible, educated, compassionate and ethical person.”

    To conclude that because I pointed out that there are potential serious consequences that should be taken into account if you are going to be responsible to not only yourself but to your partner(s) is somehow fear mongering is to miss the point entirely. And honestly, it did seem like overreaction to some key words, but honestly it was out of context as you didn’t get the beginning of the chapter nor the entire rest of the book which is all about the fact there are consequences to your actions and so you should choose wisely in all areas of your life.

    @GSW I believe Amazon.co.uk should carry the book in about a month – not sure how long it will take to set it up. I do know that the uk version ships to the US so the US version probably does ship to the uk as well if push comes to shove.

  • Claudia

    @Jennifer Hancock I fully agree that a humanist approach to sex is a far cry to an “anything goes” approach, and that as adults we have to weigh potential gain with potential consequence and responsibilty. The opening AHA document sounds terrific to me.

    However this does not really address the question I asked, which was about your paragraph on STIs, where you appear to recommend the use of condoms in previously tested monogamous couples, a strategy that seems over the top in terms of its paranoia.
    I personally would have also liked to see a mention that most STIs are not deadly, many are curable and even the nastier ones aren’t as bad as they used to be, instead of “Having sex with the wrong individual can kill you.”. Having said this, I accept that perhaps in later paragraphs you soften the “Be Afraid” rhetoric and take a more balanced view that cannot be appreciated in this excerpt.

  • Meredith

    I think what’s going on here is the same type of conversation that one has with dog owners of difficult breeds (pits, rotties, etc.)

    They will tell you, nothing wrong with those dogs! You have to be a good owner! Then they will list all the things a good owner needs to do.

    I guess the main problem is that most people are not good owners of their sex lives. They get condom fatigue, they fall in love too easily, they forget their birth control, they say they want an open relationship but really want their partner all to themselves…

    For those of you here who are good owners of your sex lives, please remember the human foibles that cause the rest of us (sure, I’ll include myself) to get pregnant by accident, catch a disease, fuck the wrong person, lie to ourselves. This is what creates the very real risks the author outlines.

    I also think we can best assume that this book might be geared towards someone young, like teens or early twenties. Your average middle-aged atheist might not need life advice of this nature.

    Oh, and trampoline! I’m curious.

  • The Godless Irishman

    When I was young the internet was just coming into the forefront of society. I didn’t have the connectivity that exists in today’s more modern world. I just wish I could have been more connected with others who shared my views. I grew up in a fairly small town that is a predominantly white/christian community. Very religious and very conservative. My views were not, and are not, met well in this community. The advice that I would have found most useful is that you need to stick to your guns and not to let ignorance get you down. There are others who think like you. Stay positive and don’t let yourself sink to the level that many of those who disagree with you will. Be the bigger, and consequently, more moral person.

  • The Godless Irishman

    Trampoline!!!

    Forgot that.

  • Jerad

    I wish I was made more aware that I wasn’t alone, I went through about a decade of hiding because I didn’t know how common not believing was.

    One of the silliest jokes I’ve ever heard is “we used to go bounce on our neighbors trampoline, that was their daughters name, Arlene.” Still cracks me up.

  • L. Foster

    You can mitigate that risk by choosing your sexual partners very carefully, making sure that you are only having sex in mutually exclusive relationships, making sure each partner is tested for STDs before engaging in sex, and using protection anyway.

    I have to disagree with whomever called this fearmongering. She’s not saying you SHOULD have mutually exclusive relationships, etc., she’s saying you can mitigate that risk [of STDs] by the things she lists. And that is true: you’re less likely to get an STD with a mutually exclusive partner. Anything else read into it is from the reader, not the author.

  • L. Foster

    And oh yeah, in answer to the question:

    “There’s a word for that. It’s called atheism. And it’s OK.”

    TRAMPOLINE

  • re: The comment about the stds – first – the use protection anyway is a bit tongue in cheek, but only a little bit.

    But here is the rationale. When you first start having sex with someone, even if it is within a committed relationship, do you really want to get pregant. Remember, protection isn’t just to prevent disease. But even if it is just about protecting against disease, HIV can take up to 6 months to show up in a test. Even in a committed relationship it isn’t a horrid idea to be careful until the 2nd round of testing. The idea is to protect yourself and your partner from whatever you think you both need protecting from.

    A trust but verify approach does not get in the way of pleasurable sex. It’s as simple as that.

    Oh and to imply that it is no big deal to get an STD because they are treatable is as ridiculous as the guy who claimed abortions are no big deal. They are to the people who have to deal with them and the uncertainity such diagnoses bring with them. Not to mention the very real physical toll such diseases have on your body even if they are treatable, or curable. Sounds like a pretty vapid attempt to rationalize risky behavior to me.

  • Brian C Posey

    I have to agree with people who list the internet as a great atheist resource. I stopped (if I ever really did) believing when I was about 12. I remember having discussions with people about it. It would have been easier had I had a resource to develop my thoughts.

    For instance the phrases “Pascal’s Wager” and “false dichotomy” would have come in handy. Also, simply knowing that of other non-believers would’ve been nice.

    Trampoline.

  • Gabriel

    Now, about that “sex” section, here are my points of disagreement:
    1. Sex is only as important as you make it–it is not equal to love, since you can love someone without having sex with them (see: asexuality), or have sex with someone without romantic involvement (see: youthful experimentation, one-night stands, friends with benefits).

    2. Condoms and birth control, used together, will prevent pregnancy in all but a tiny fraction of cases. IIRC they’re 99% effective. Condoms and dental dams usually mean no STDs.

    3. OK, fair point. Note that sex doesn’t always result in pregnancy, and that not every pregnant woman is going to have the baby–yes, I understand that abortions do cost money in a lot of places, but nowhere near as much as raising the kid. Dating costs money regardless of your intentions (getting laid, for a lot of college boys like myself, versus getting married). Porn can cost money, too, and the only “irresponsible” use of porn that I can see is spending too much on it–you can spend far too much on other things, like toiletries, and no-one seems to be saying that’s evil and immoral.

    4. The scaremongering and abstinence-only approach has been proven to be complete bullshit. See this link: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN1423677120070414

    5. You invoked Godwin’s Law, this whole thing is mostly an appeal to (fundie) tradition, and there’s a massive appeal to fear. It’s just not a very rational argument.

  • H

    “Don’t be a dick about it.”

    Really, that would have helped me out a lot a few years back when I first realized I was atheist. Looking back, I was constantly ridiculing people for their beliefs, and it cost me a lot of friendships. It was all for naught, as it did nothing to change their minds.

    Now, I don’t bring it up unless it is brought up, and instead of ridicule, I simply explain why I don’t believe and go from there. A few times I’ve went back to dick mode, but I’m working on it.

    Trampoline

  • Just curious, oh wonderful site admins, but is there a way for me to delete the numerous off-topic self-righteous flaming-focused pissing contest posts so I could instead read the comments that are actually ON TOPIC without interruption…?

    Seriously. Grow up, guys. Instead of enlightening anyone with intelligent insight, we’ve been treated to the electronic equivalent of a couple of drunken Pee Wee Hermans.

    [“I know you are, but what am I?”]

    Please, do me and everyone else a favor…? Refrain from discussing yourself or chastising others except in direct relation to the chosen topic. Demeaning dissenting posters does not make your personal opinion any more legitimate. Ask yourself– am I adding to the discussion and exchanging of ideas, or am I detracting and side-tracking the topic by making personal attacks? Thanks.

  • Update: Lore is the winner with this comment! Thanks for playing 🙂

  • cherie

    Too late for me to get a copy of the book but I want to say I don’t understand why so many are excoriating her for trying to open kids’ eyes to the fact that they need to put frontal lobes in gear before making decisions about sex, because such decisions can have lifetime consequences, some of them involving persons other than oneself. And my freedom ends where another’s begins.

    Some of us feel so scarred by past preachings and indoctrinations that we allow our emotions to take over and overreact to anything seeming at all preachy, even if, in context, it may make some sense.