Yesterday I focused on some of the positive aspects of secular sex. Darrel Ray and Amanda Brown’s research has given us clear insight into the positive benefits of removing religious guilt from our sex lives. Unfortunately, there’s a dark side to the research as well, and we can find it by focusing on people’s answers to questions about their religious sex lives.
“I had several preachers and military Chaplains proposition me for sex over the years. I did with several. It only solidified my rejection of religion as hypocritical nonsense.”
Yeah, I know. We already know that Catholic priests molest boys. Been there, done that. Old news. Even so, I think it’s worth making special note of a couple of implications from secularists’ answers to both the quantitative and qualitative questions.
Most disturbing: Of the nearly ten thousand responses, 3.5% reported at least having been sexually propositioned by clergy. While this number may at first appear lower than the national average (and therefore an indication of religion’s benefit), there are a couple of mitigating factors that need to be considered. For one, a significant portion of this population came from non-religious homes, so never had contact with clergy.
It is unlikely that all victims of religious sexual abuse become secularists. In fact, plenty of research indicates the opposite. Victims of abuse often fall into a pattern of self-blame. This is one of the most dangerous aspects of abuse. Not only do the victims not leave religion, they blame themselves for the abuse and cling tighter to God as a result. They believe they don’t have enough faith, and were punished for it.
It is therefore reasonable to conclude that the rate of religious abuse is higher than indicated by this data set.
“Some of my earliest sexual experiences were forced by clergy and religious leaders. I was not only intimidated by them because of sexual power, but they had control of damning my body and soul. I felt that I was completely beyond any love, acceptance or forgiveness of god because I was forced to have sexual experiences.”
More disturbing is the continued correlation between high religiosity and high sexual dysfunction. The most religious ex-religionists reported a 6.3% rate of inappropriate contact with clergy, while the least religious reported only 2.7%. While it is possible this simply reflects relatively less church attendance — and therefore opportunity — it is still deeply disturbing that not all of the sexual victims represent over 6% of respondents. (The national average is around 7 out of 100 boys.) Generously assuming that 60% of the victims of abuse became secularists, that would still mean that 1 in 10 children are victims of sexual abuse at the hands of the clergy!
Yet another disturbing trend: There was no significant emphasis on Catholic clergy in the survey, even though Catholicism was heavily represented in the population. That is to say: Clergy of all denominations are sexually abusing children at a startling rate.
The data paints a clear picture: Religious indoctrination and sexual guilt are ineffective on two fronts: They do not significantly effect religionists’ sexual behavior, only how they feel about it. More disturbingly, strong belief does not mitigate the tendency of men in positions of power over children to sexually abuse them.
In other words, religion’s war on sex does not prevent any of the behavior it so vehemently opposes. It is all bark and no bite. It creates guilt and sexual dysfunction without changing sexual behaviors, orientation, or desire. It is worse than useless.
- Abuse Crisis Pits Church Honesty Against Lawyers’ Caution (huffingtonpost.com)
- Vatican suggests bishops report abuse to police (cbsnews.com)
- Prosecute the Catholic sex-abuse scandals (seattletimes.nwsource.com)