A few years ago I got into a pretty good Internet argument about this piece by Frank Turek, the author of the highly dishonest book, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist. I was thinking about the discussion that resulted and I instinctively knew I had to read this poorly-argued piece again, and share it with you. It’s disturbing that this is a reflection of the way many Christians think. When reading it keep in mind that it’s author is considered a leading apologist.
First of all I know a lot of atheists and agnostics and I do not for the life of me think I have met a single individual who bases his religious beliefs on a desire to have sex or follow or be free from an over looking authority (these just tend to be extra bonuses for thinking critically). Many of us grew up in very religious backgrounds and found that we were often forced to reject beliefs that made us comfortable and made life easier. For many of us, deconversion was a difficult and painful process marked by alienation from friends and loved ones.
It was also not a choice, but rather a realization for many of us. I personally did not choose to be an atheist, but came to a realization that I no longer could justify the beliefs I was raised with. I did this after investigating Christianity and other religions and looking specifically at evidence for and against it’s teaching. This was not motivated by any desire of mine, other than to have as many true beliefs and as few false beliefs as possible. I feel that I speak for most Christian apostates I know when I say this: It was a desire to have a factually correct world-view that lead us to reject Christianity and not a desire to be free to sin as much as we want. It is extremely insulting for anyone to claim that a position is based on human weakness rather than on the actual evidence.
Second of all the basic premise makes very little sense. There are countless unmarried, self-identified Christians who sleep with members of the opposite sex and the same sex as well. This is in fact one of the many sins that the Christian God forgives, and those who engage in it can write it off as just an example of human weakness, that they can work on. Additionally many Christians are able to engage in amazing feats of cognitive dissonance, where they are able to rationalize and reconcile just about anything they want with Christianity. It seems highly unlikely to me that anyone has ever thought “I like sleeping with you, so I guess that means God doesn’t exists”. Some may explore the possibility that God is more chilled, than authors like Turek suggest, or even use it as a catalyst for exploring the evidence for God, but I do not think very many people form their beliefs on a desire to sleep with someone. That said, you obviously do not need to become an atheist or agnostic to have sex outside of marriage, and that there are many forms of Christianity that have little problem with it.
Under all this it seems to me to be a deeper problem though; Christianity is guilt-tripping people for the perfectly natural and normal sexual desires we all experience. There is nothing wrong with wanting to sleep with your girlfriend or boyfriend or various other people you may know and acting on this desire, provided it is consensual and done with respect for all involved, with all necessary precautions taken to avoid unintended consequences. The type of religious demonization of sexuality that Mr. Turek advocates is really very harmful. It causes people to live in guilt about perfectly normal desires, it causes people to be bigoted towards people with different desires and it has even caused people to oppose contraception and medications that remove the risks associated with sex. It has led some high profile Christians to express opposition to finding cures and preventions for AIDS. It is time we dump this religious fear of sexuality and embrace who we truly are.
These sexual attitudes are absurd and profoundly immoral. That said, I seriously doubt the exchange described in the article even happened. It sounds to much like Christian urban legend material and I have heard plenty of accounts of stock stories like this authored by motivational speakers and Christian apologetics. The characters are given nothing more than first names and the agnostic in it is a total strawman. It seems unlikely an Agnostic would take the time to argue that Christians should not defend their faith against those who attack it. Most of us would really like to see them start doing a better job of it.
I find it ironic that he refers to the machine gun fire approach to arguing and in the same breath is adverse to skeptics using the same approach. It is a favorite tool of the Christian apologist and is often referred to as the Gish Gallup after a certain apologist who makes heavy use of it. Also, all supposed evidence for Christianity Turek sites can easily be dismissed with a few searches on Google. This is true of every formal argument for the existence of God and why should this be the case? After all if an argument could prove the existence of a god, faith would no longer be needed.
Also his attack on evolution is ridiculous as there is overwhelming evidence for it, and none for creationism. It’s the fact that so many Christians hold on to antiquated and easily disprovable ideas that church attendance is dropping among the younger generation. If your religion requires you to reject a now obvious truth it is pretty much screwed. The Huxley quote, may or may not be accurate since despite being a favorite of religionists no one has been able to locate the episode of the Merv Griffin show it was on. Not, that this matters, because sexual mores aside there is an enormous amount of evidence for evolution.
Addressing the rest of the nonsense in this piece would make my response even longer and you can discuss that in the comments. Thanks.