Saturday, October 27, 2012

Creeping Theocracy Via Sexual “Morality”

I’m often told by my believer friends that my concerns about the USA becoming a theocracy are baseless and paranoid.  Such thoughts, I’m assured, are simply imaginary and have little chance of realization. Nevertheless, I believe my concerns aren't delusional, but have a firm basis in the reality of legislation in the USA even as I write this.  In particular, I've been reading lately of the blatant imposition of religious morality onto the laws of our secular nation.  The conservative christian fundamentalists (aka the 'religious reich') already have managed to push their will regarding sexual morality into many aspects of American life.  Banning the sale of alcohol on Sundays has been with us for a long time, but it represents just one of many examples where religious morality has become the law of our land already.

For instance, there are widespread limitations on the availability of sexually-oriented material of all sorts.  Censorship on television is rampant, including the censorship of words commonly-used in everyday speech.  Religious morality has become the "community standard" by which material is judged to be subject to censorship.  Why must the religious impose their standards on everyone?  Why should my right to access to material I enjoy be limited by those who are absolutely free to choose not to access that material?  I'm not forcing them to watch sexually-oriented television, or buy such pornographic magazines, or read literature containing words they find offensive, so why are they preventing me from having access to it? 

The religious who support these "standards"  typically respond that they're worried about children being influenced negatively by hearing "bad" (according to whom?) words and seeing "indecent" (again, according to whom?) things.  There's no evidence to support such an excuse for censorship, and I can think of no good reason why children need to be sheltered from sexual content until their honeymoon night.  It's absolutely absurd, for instance, that the many children who saw Janet Jackson's nipple during the Superbowl XXXVIII halftime show were somehow permanently damaged by such a sight.  All people, including children, have nipples, for Pete's sake!  The furor was far in excess of the significance of the event.  A rationale based on "protecting" children from the reality around them has no basis in fact, so it's nothing more than the religious right lying to get their morality imposed on us all.

Need I describe at length the existing laws regarding abortion and contraception in the USA?  If you wish to have a more thorough documentation of these, I recommend the excellent book "America's War on Sex" by Marty Klein.  Although the bible is silent regarding abortion and contraception (among many other topics since the technology for these didn’t exist in biblical times), America's conservative christians (aka the religious reich) have successfully implemented many barriers and limitations on both of these technologies.  The argument is made that these methods of reducing the consequences of sexual "misconduct" (i.e., any sexual activity not authorized by the interpreters of biblical content) will encourage promiscuity.  What's so bad about promiscuity, anyway?  Who has the right to decide how much sexual activity is enough?  The religious reich believes they do!!

The religious reich believes that any sex outside of marriage between a man and woman for the sole purpose of reproduction is forbidden.  Fine.  If they want to limit themselves in this way, let them do so in the privacy of their own domiciles.  Why do they need to push their version of morality on everyone else?  Why should they care what goes on in the private lives of someone who isn’t a believer in their particular form of "morality"?  Why should they have the right to dictate to women how to express their sexuality?  Why should they have the right to tell women how to operate their reproductive system?  Why should they have the right to make same-sex relationships exempt from equal rights under the law?  Why should they have the right to make anal and oral sex illegal for everyone?  The simple answer is, of course, they shouldn’t have that right.  But they're doing so anyway.

In another compelling book "Sex and God:  How Religion Distorts Sexuality" by Darrel Ray, we read that the goal of the fundamentalist religious authorities is to gain power over people’s lives.  When religions can control the sex lives of their followers, they are well on their way to controlling the rest of their activities.  They have convinced most people that sex is "dirty", the human body is "obscene", and sexual behaviors outside of penis-vagina intercourse for the purpose of making babies within the "sacred" institution of marriage are "evil" and cause all sorts of harm (the evidence for which is nonexistent).  The real harm, of course, is the scarred psyches of our children who can wind up despising their bodies, fearful of sex, ashamed of their sexuality and feeling guilty over doing the very things they are told are wrong – because the urge to do those things is nearly irresistible.  The guilt leads people back to religion, of course, where the message of the "original sin" and the worthlessness of humans is reinforced.  This is simply a way to maintain religious control over people's lives.  The fear and guilt aren't working to prevent unwanted teen pregnancies and the spread of STDs - children are engaging in sex at the same frequency everywhere, no matter what indoctrination is imposed on them by sanctimonious religious believers.

So irresistible are those urges, in fact, that many members of the religious reich participate in those very verboten acts, on a regular basis, as is frequently revealed in the media.  The monumental hypocrisy of these characters illustrates their complete lack of credibility in inflicting  their personal morality on the rest of us in the form of laws criminalize the same acts in which they themselves engage!  We don’t want or need their "authorization" for what we choose to do - we reject categorically their morality, which purports to have sacrosanct ideals but which in the reality of their lives just mirrors their hypocrisy.  They have no Constitutional right to impose their morality on us all, so we should oppose all such efforts.

Their answer to everything – abstinence from any sexual activity not "authorized" by these hypocrites – has been shown repeatedly not to be at all effective, whereas modern technology (condoms, contraceptives, etc.) has been given rigorous scientific testing and shown to be effective at reducing  unwanted consequences of sexual activity.  The details are expressed at length in "America’s War on Sex" where it is shown that the religious reich goes to extreme lengths, including outright lies and falsehoods, to discredit these technologies and prevent their use.  Abstinence, they claim, is the only acceptable answer, despite the reality that abstinence has been shown to be ineffective at reducing the spread of STDs, unwanted pregnancies, and so on.

We have the illogical spectacle of opposition to abortion at the same time they oppose the use of contraception!  The biggest contribution to a reduction of unwanted pregnancies would be the use of contraceptives (in their many forms, including "the morning after" pill).  It's clear that using these contraceptive technologies would not support the pure abstinence program of the religious reich, so their response is to use their political power to impose all sorts of obstacles to the use and sale of contraceptives at the same time abortion is being heavily restricted (with a growing movement to outlaw it in all circumstances - no exceptions!). 

In terms of sexual morality, the religious reich has been very effective in infusing their version of "morality" into the laws of our secular nation.  An explanation for their effectiveness is the classic case of the tyranny of the majority.  wo Many people (even those who partake of "unauthorized" sex in their private lives) are willing to stand behind the forceful imposition of religious morality on all people of the nation.  Unfortunately, many "moderate" believers are among those who choose not to vote at all, or to accept the religious version of "morality" and so are unwilling to oppose efforts to force it down everyone's throat.

One need look no farther to see the clear and present danger of creeping theocracy.  We must resist this unconstitutional imposition of religious sexual "morality" on the nation.  Let them try to live up to their own ideals (at which they often are unsuccessful!) in their private lives, but deny them the right to impose those rules on the rest of us!